Proctor welcomes Burgess's NRL return
Kevin Proctor, arguably New Zealand’s best player on tour in England, says he would like to try rugby union when his current contract with Melbourne expires.
Undeterred by Sam Burgess’s misadventures in the 15-man game, the corkscrew-curled back-rower told NRL.com he was extremely curious how he would perform in the sport he played as a boy.
Proctor played rugby union, Australian Rules and rugby league in New Zealand, Perth, the Gold Coast and Melbourne all before he turned 21.
“I wouldn’t mind giving it a crack, eh?” Proctor said in the Kiwis’ Liverpool hotel ahead of Saturday’s sold-out deciding Test against England at Wigan’s DW Stadium.
“Just because I grew up with it and I know the game so well … I suppose you could leave it to my manager to find me a club.
“I loved my rugby union when I was growing up, I played that pretty much my whole life, until I was 16 or 17, and then I made the transition.”
Now 26, Proctor will be 29 when his current Storm deal expires – still young enough to make a name for himself in rugby union.
“I heard Sam was coming back and I think it’s great – we need some of the great players back in the game,” he said.
“It didn’t work out in rugby union like everyone thought it would but he was missed by the Rabbitohs this year.”
While New Zealand have retained the same top 17 that levelled the series last Saturday – Tui Lolohea drops out of the 19-man squad completely – England made two alterations that suggest their starting side will change.
Wigan’s Matty Smith, a halfback, comes into the 19 to place pressure on his clubmate George Williams who was highly critical of his own performance at the Olympic Stadium.
“It’s a horrible feeling,” he told reporters. “There’s a good chance that I’m not going to play next week.”
Huddersfield winger Jermaine McGilvary has also been called up and is in line to replace Sydney Roosters signing Joe Burgess. McGilvary, 27, was Super League’s leading try-scorer this year.
Ben Westwood, a forward, and centre Leroy Cudjoe are the men who have dropped out of coach Steve McNamara’s extended squad.
McNamara said in the team announcement statement: "We have had a great week with our preparation and the players are well aware of the importance of the game and the improvements we have to make from our previous matches to give ourselves every chance of beating a strong New Zealand side.
"We will have to be at our best to win but we'll relish the pressure of playing against a quality team in front of a full house at Wigan."
Teams for the match, which kicks off at DW Stadium at 1pm Saturday, local time, are:
England (squad): John Bateman (Wigan), Joe Burgess (Wigan), Tom Burgess (South Sydney), Mike Cooper (St George Illawarra), Liam Farrell (Wigan), Brett Ferres (Hudderfield), James Graham (Canterbury), Ryan Hall (Leeds), Zak Hardaker (Leeds), Chris Hill (Warrington), Josh Hodgson (Canberra), Jermaine McGilvary (Huddersfield), Sean O'Loughlin (capt, Wigan), James Roby (St Helens), Matty Smith (Wigan),Kallum Watkins (Leeds), Elliott Whitehead (Catalans), Gareth Widdop (St George Illawarra), George Williams (Wigan).
New Zealand: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Sydney Roosters); Jason Nightingale (St George Illawarra), Jordan Kahu (Brisbane), Dean Whare (Penrith), Shaun Kenny-Dowall (Sydney Roosters); Peta Hiku (Manly), Kodi Nikorima (Brisbane); Jesse Bromwich (Melbourne), Issac Luke (South Sydney), Sam Moa (Sydney Roosters); Kevin Proctor (Melbourne), Tohu Harris (Melbourne), Adam Blair (Brisbane). Reserves: Lewis Brown (Penrith), Martin Taupau (Wests Tigers), Ben Matulino (Warriors), Alex Glenn (Brisbane), Issac Liu (Sydney Roosters), Gerard Beale (Cronulla, two to be omitted).
Referee: Ben Thaler (England).