'We want that No.1': England using Denver Test to kick-start rankings climb
Look out Australia. England players are planning to take the Kangaroos No.1 ranking as the world's best team and will use the Test against New Zealand in Denver on Saturday (Sunday 6am AEST) to kick-start their campaign.
England sit third on the RLIF rankings but if they win the historic Test at Mile High Stadium and beat the Kiwis in the three-Test series at the end of the season, they will leapfrog New Zealand into second place.
With Australia having just one scheduled Test this season, against the Kiwis, the Kangaroos are vulnerable if they were to lose in Auckland on October 14.
After losing last December's World Cup final to Australia by just 6-0, the England players believe they can overtake the Kangaroos as the No.1 Test playing nation.
"We want that No.1 spot in the world, in the international rankings. We speak about it a lot," said England second-rower John Bateman, who will decide after the Denver Test whether to accept one of three NRL offers or stay at Wigan.
"There is no point taking part in something if you don't want to be No.1. That's our aim, and, obviously, we want to win against New Zealand this weekend and in the series at the end of the season. If we can do that then it is obviously all about knocking off Australia when it comes to it".
Fellow England backrower Elliott Whitehead said: "I think we believed before the World Cup final that we could beat Australia and we pulled up a bit short but the belief is definitely there. We just need to keep improving in little areas and we are not too far away".
Bateman said confidence was high in the England camp after two years under the coaching of Wayne Bennett and the World Cup had proven that little now separates them from Australia.
"Wayne has done wonders," Bateman said. "There are some great players in this team so if you put structures in place and give them aims they will perform. That is what he has really done.
"We did pretty good in the World Cup, getting in the final. It wasn't the result we wanted but I think we had a pretty good tournament and we came out of it pretty happy.
"I think we are building, everyone knows what we are doing and everyone knows what we are about so it is a good vibe. It is a good camp to be involved in. "
With the success of Sam Burgess, James Graham and Elliott Whitehead in the NRL, Bateman has been thinking about making the move and has offers from three Australian clubs but he said leaving Wigan would be hard to do.
Bateman has another year to run on his contract with Wigan but has a get-out clause to join an NRL club and while in Australia for the Super League match against Hull he met with Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan and he has also been linked with Canberra.
The Raiders recently signed Wigan teammate Ryan Sutton and already have Whitehead and England hooker Josh Hodgon on their roster but Bateman said he was seriously considering all options.
"There are about three [clubs] but I am really happy with Wigan so it's just about what's best for me and what's best for my family," Bateman said.
"Once I get this Test out of the way I will probably be going back home to sort out what I am doing. In the next week or so I want to put pen to paper on a deal and really get it sorted."
Meanwhile, Whitehead said the successful return of Hodgson from a knee reconstruction in last weekend's win against Wests Tigers could be the catalyst for Canberra to make the top eight.
"He came on and changed the game and showed what sort of player he is," Whitehead said. "All credit to him, he has worked hard to get himself back to fitness.
"Josh is probably one of the most professional players I have ever met in my career and it was just good to see him back out there and especially playing so well. He will be a big addition for Canberra and will help us push for the top eight."