JOE Philbin may find he has a target on his back this year.

No longer can he be considered a young upstart, for he starts 2020 as a Great Britain international.

To go from playing your first ever game of rugby league for Culcheth Eagles to pulling on the famous red, white and blue – with more than 100 appearances for your hometown club in between – is not a bad effort by anybody’s standards.

Still, nobody can now be unwise as to what the 25-year-old brings – thrill-a-minute, rumbustious carries with no quarter asked or given.

Will it make him more of a marked man for rivals? He reckons not but the message is clear – if so, bring it on.

“I wouldn’t say it would make people go for me anymore. We all do that to each other enough as it is,” he said.

“If people want to go for me a bit more, so be it. I welcome the challenge.

It was such a nice surprise to get that call-up.

“Results wise, the tour wasn’t the best but as a young player, going there and learning from some of the best players in the world in your position was priceless.

“It’s something I’ll never forget and getting a cap was the proudest moment of my career.

“It’s been 10 years since I started playing rugby league at Culcheth. It’s been quite the journey, but it’s up to me to make sure this is just the start.

“I’m really enjoying my rugby. Pricey has given me a lot of confidence in myself.”

Warrington Guardian:

Philbin in action for Great Britain against New Zealand. Picture by Brett Phibbs/

Philbin’s international exploits meant he rejoined his Wire teammates after Christmas for a more truncated pre-season than what he has become used to.

As one of four established props with considerable first-team experience in the Wire squad that starts the campaign, he will be more integral than ever to their fortunes.

He has carved out a niche for himself as an impact substitute in very much the same way that David Solomona did during his Warrington career.

Starts became a little more frequent towards the end of 2019, so could we see him become a nailed-on starter this year?

“I won’t be losing sleep if I’m not starting. I’ll just keep doing what I can control,” he said.

“I ended up with a few starts last year, which was nice but whatever Pricey decides to do, I’m more than comfortable with.

“Being on the bench isn’t like in football when you might not get on.

“It’s such a big position in rugby league to change the pace of the game. Whatever Steve thinks is best for the team, I’ll do because we’re all team players at the end of the day.”