Rejuvenated Widdop keen for starting spot
Simply making the World Cup has been an achievement for Storm star Gareth Widdop, whose season looked over when he suffered a painful dislocated hip in Round 15 of the NRL season. But now he wants to make an England starting spot his own.
The five-eighth, who impressed after coming off the bench in England's shock trial match defeat against Italy on the weekend, fought back from injury to play in Melbourne's two finals games before earning a call-up to the World Cup squad.
Widdop said the tournament was always in the back of his mind when he started the long road to recovery back in June.
"After I had the injury I had a week to settle down and think about things... and I always had the goal of getting back to playing and being able to get selected by England, because if you don't have a goal it sort of does your head in a little bit," Widdop told England RL.
"So pretty much by that first week I always had that aspiration of getting back onto the field, firstly for Melbourne and then hopefully being selected for England. I worked extremely hard in my recovery and got myself back playing."
The 24-year-old, who started his career at fullback before becoming a starting five-eighth for Melbourne and an impact player off the bench for England, wants to make the national No.6 jersey his own after getting back into the squad.
"I wasn't really too sure where we I sat (with the squad) to be honest because I only had three or four games under my belt so I wasn't sure if I was going to get selected or not. But obviously I did and I'm very happy," he said.
"I definitely want to be starting as a half. That's my position and that's where I've been playing the last few years so I'll be doing everything possible and training well to (get) that starting spot.
"Across the board everyone's fighting for positions and I think that's good, it's making everyone train a lot harder, and that's what you need for an international team."
Widdop said a forward pack featuring James Graham and the Burgess brothers would be key for England if they were to challenge title favourites Australia in the tournament opener.
"It's obviously a great team. They're going to be hard to beat," he said. "But we've got a big forward pack so let's use that to our advantage and hopefully we can get the win."