Widdop: Need To Perform For Selection
By Jack Brady (NRL.com)
Dragons and English Test star Gareth Widdop has backed new national coach Wayne Bennett's ploy to entice Bulldogs stars Brett and Josh Morris as well Knights skipper Trent Hodkinson to shift their allegiances to England.
Widdop has featured for England 18 times and said if the Morris twins and Hodkinson were to defect from representing Australia it would prove a good thing for his country as they build towards the 2017 World Cup.
The Australian trio have all represented New South Wales in the past, with the twins managing 24 Tests between them for the Kangaroos (Brett 18, Josh 6).
Their defections would also put the likes of Wigan trio Matty Smith, George Williams and John Bateman as well as Leeds centre Kallum Watkins and Rabbitoh Joe Burgess under immense pressure to retain their spots in England's national side.
"I had a laugh about it with Brett Morris the other day about it, I text him 'you're not a Pom'," Widdop laughed.
"He has grandparents who are English and these days with the national team and eligibility rules then it makes sense. It's quite interesting really though. I'm sure Wayne has his reasons and I'm sure the hierarchy will make decisions on that.
"Obviously the more depth we have the more pressure it's going to put on the other players over there in England and even here.
"Everyone is going to have to perform to be selected which is want. You want a pool of players to pick from rather than not so it's healthy for rugby league in England."
On Bennett, Widdop said the appointment of the seven-time NRL premiership-winning coach was an opportunity too good for England to refuse.
Widdop spent time under Bennett while playing for the World All Stars at the beginning of the year, and said a recent dinner with his fellow countrymen afforded many the opportunity to meet the mastercoach ahead of October's Four Nations.
In saying all this, Widdop was sad to see Steve McNamara depart after spending eight years on the national side's coaching staff (five as head coach).
"To attract somebody like Wayne Bennett is massive for rugby league in England. Everyone knows how much success he has had," Widdop said.
"When Wayne speaks, you listen. He has an aura about him so he'll be great. It was a shock when it was announced he was to coach because Steve McNamara had been there for a number of years.
"Steve did a great job and it was unfortunate to see him go but in saying the opportunity for someone like Wayne Bennett to coach doesn't come around often so us players are looking forward to working with him."