St George-Illawarra Dragons pivot Gareth Widdop will be keeping a close eye on team-mate and Kiwi winger Jason Nightingale this Sunday when England play New Zealand at the KC Stadium in Hull.
Born and raised in Halifax, Widdop moved to Melbourne, Australia when he was 16-years-old with his family. He broke into Melbourne Storm’s first team in 2010 and went on to win the 2012 NRL Grand Final with them.
Nightingale, ever-present in the New Zealand squad since 2008, was joined by Widdop at the start of the 2014 season from the Storm. Having formed a successful partnership at the Dragons, Widdop will be making sure the 29-year-old winger won’t be getting any chances to get over the line in Hull.
“At club level Jason has been at the Dragons ever since he was a junior so he’s certainly well respected there and a good friend of mine,” said Widdop.
“He’s probably one of the older boys in the Kiwis and he’s got a lot of experience so he’ll be a key player for them in helping a few of the young boys out.
“He is an unbelievable finisher and has scored some great tries over the years. We’ll be making sure New Zealand don’t get into any good field positions and then they won’t have the opportunities to score those type of tries.
“Jason is a bit of a freak at times and manages to put the ball down when you think it’s not possible. First thing we have to do though is stop the big boys in the middle.”
Widdop is also familiar with three other faces in the New Zealand squad – he came through the development ranks at Melbourne with Jesse Bromwich, Kevin Proctor and Tohu Harris. He is well aware of the impact these forwards can have on the game and is confident England have what it takes to stop their momentum.
“I grew up playing in the under-20s with Jesse, Kevin and Tohu and then moved into the first team with them,” he said.
“Jesse is one of the best front-rowers in the world. Our boys know they’ll have their hands full but we’ll be looking to stop them from the word go.
“Traditionally the Kiwis have always tried to outmuscle you with a big pack and power through the middle, but we’re ready for that. We’ve got to be on our game this Sunday across the board and expect some ad-lib football at times. This is a huge game.”
The three-game series against New Zealand starts at the KC Stadium, Hull on Sunday November 1 (5pm UK Time)
This article first appeared on England RL