England’s single Saint on club rivalries and playing his own game
Jack Welsby entered the England camp this week as the only St Helens representative following a timely win over Warrington.
Welsby, 22, is being billed as one of the more experienced players in Shaun Wane’s youthful side that takes on France at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
That’s despite the fact it’s less than a year since he made his England debut against Combined Nations All Stars, and barely six months since his full test debut in the World Cup opener against Samoa.
He is expected to start at full-back in the absence of former captain Sam Tomkins, having featured at stand-off in the tournament.
Much has been made of the absentees from the squad, which includes seven of Welsby’s St Helens team-mates for a variety of reasons, but he was full of praise for the environment that Wane has created.
Welsby told Love Rugby League: “It’s been really enjoyable and I’m just glad to be here. All those rivalries get set aside when you come into the camp. I know a lot of the boys are a similar age to me and we know each other from schoolboys playing together.
“I’m just excited to pull on the England shirt to be honest, not too fussed where I play. As long as I’m on the field at some point, I’ll be happy. It’s all about getting a good performance and a good result against a young French side that will be hungry.”
Freedom to play
Welsby’s had a busy start to the year, becoming World Club Champions with St Helens and they recorded a fine 28-6 win over Warrington ahead of the international break to end any growing concerns following successive losses.
He added: “We got a good weekend off after the Warrington game, a much needed break. Then I got a call off Waney saying that I was in and I was thankful. This is the highest accolade in your career playing for your country and the more opportunity I get to do that the better for me.
“I didn’t know who was in or out, I knew there would be one or two from Warrington, I knew George would be in being captain, so it was nice to get that win! But like I’ve said, rivalries get set aside, we’ve not even spoke about that game, all we’ve done is speak about France and review the previous England games.”
Welsby played in the semi-final heartbreak against Samoa at the Emirates Stadium and will likely have a different kind of role in the game against a France side who are also missing several of their regulars.
But as he has so often proved for St Helens, Welsby is a top performer whatever position he plays in and England coach Wane is happy to give him that freedom to play his own game at international level too.
Welsby said: “We’ve got a lot of talented individuals in our team and in the programme, not just this week, throughout the whole 40 man squad he’s named.
“You don’t have to look any further than George our captain, he gets a free licence, obviously got to be disciplined in things that we do but if we see something he wants us to take our opportunities and go and play and do what we’ve been doing all our lives.
“A lot of us come from similar places and similar backgrounds and growing on a park playing rugby and stuff like that and that’s what made us what we are today and we’re very fortunate to do it, but we’re also very good at it so we’ve just got to play rugby.
“Rugby is a game that can be played in a lot of different ways. It doesn’t really matter what position you get the ball in, it’s just about playing rugby. You see a lot of footballers changing formations and I see the game in a similar way that you can have more than one certain position in the field and when I’m on I know what I’m going to do, I’m just going to play my game.”
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