Watkins awake to Jennings threat
The last time Kallum Watkins played against an Australian team in Australia he had the unenviable task of trying to contain Jamal Idris but the England centre says Sunday's assignment is no less daunting.
The size of Kangaroos opposite Michael Jennings may be decidedly less intimidating than Idris but the challenge of an England team defeating the Kangaroos in Australia is one that no team from the mother country has yet been able to achieve.
Watkins' memories of his first tour of Australia with the English Academy team in 2008 are hardly an inspiration to draw from as the likes of Idris, Aaron Woods, Will Hopoate, Ryan James and Albert Kelly dished out a 68-6 hiding in the first Test and then won the second 17-10.
"There were a few guys who play in the NRL, Aaron Woods, Will Hopoate and Jamal Idris and Jamal hasn't gotten any bigger since we played him then. He were massive; he was absolutely massive," Watkins recalled.
"I actually played on the left side that time and he played on the right so it was a tough challenge, he's a big fella, but that's another experience that I really enjoyed.
"I watch the NRL quite a bit so obviously Jennings and [Daniel] Tupou who have come in together after gelling at the Roosters have that combination.
"He's very quick, good on his feet and it should be a big challenge and that's what you want as a player. You want that big challenge to play against the top players and test yourself at the highest level.
"Playing for your country at first is big but obviously playing the Aussies in their backyard and coming over on tour is a challenge in itself. Personally it is huge for me and I want to play well and help my team be successful."
At just 23 years of age the Leeds centre has already amassed 128 Super League games and scored 72 tries despite having to endure two injury-ravaged seasons in 2010-2011.
As well as touring Australia in 2008 Watkins made his first grade debut with Leeds at 17 years of age against the Celtic Crusaders in the Challenge Cup, scoring a try on debut. England selection came in 2012 and since then he has scored seven tries in nine games, including one last week against Samoa.
While Watkins is on Jennings alert, England will be on the lookout for a better performance having twice had to come from behind to defeat Toa Samoa in the opening match of the tournament.
With the Kangaroos desperate to keep their Four Nations title defence alive, Watkins said it is now a matter of his team being prepared within themselves if they are to account for Australia and the Kiwis in the coming weeks.
"[Last] weekend's performance wasn't how we wanted it to be. It was a tough game and we did what we could to win but obviously there is a lot of improvement to come in," Watkins said.
"They were tough conditions on the weekend, it took a lot of energy out of us and then obviously with the errors we made and the penalties we gave away, it was energy sapping."
While England were able to sneak away with the points, Australia weren't so lucky.
Despite an 18-point loss to the Kiwis, Watkins believes it is hard to say whether they are ripe for picking because quite frankly "they don't lose a lot".
"They'll be looking to battle back, so we have to be prepared for that," he said.
"They have a lot of players missing... so they have new guys coming in trying to get used to being in this kind of set-up, so this one game could help become better as team. It is going to be tough."
Watkins was on Tuesday named in the centres in an unchanged team from last weekend's fixture against Samoa to take on the Kangaroos this Sunday afternoon but captain Sean O'Loughlin will continue to be monitored during the week with regards to a possible recall from a quad strain.