Gareth Widdop says England squad is 'one of the closest' he's been in
Last Updated: 22/06/18 2:17pm
Gareth Widdop believes the continuity established under England coach Wayne Bennett will pay dividends, starting with the mid-season Test against New Zealand in Colorado.
The Halifax-born stand-off was in the team that lost to Australia in the 2017 World Cup final in Brisbane and will win his 28th cap at Denver's Mile High Stadium on Saturday.
Bennett has shown his loyalty since succeeding McNamara two and a half years ago and, even with two new faces, will field a team boasting 280 caps against a Kiwi side that will include seven newcomers.
"Since Wayne took over, it's probably one of the closest groups I've ever been part of," said Widdop, who was a member of Melbourne's 2013 World Club Challenge-winning team.
"It feels like almost a club team. We enjoy each other's company, which is great."
Widdop, who missed last year's mid-season Test against Samoa through injury, says the importance of Saturday's ground-breaking international in the United States cannot be over-stated ahead of the autumn Test series against New
"We don't have Origin so for us to get away with our country, these games are really important, otherwise we don't get together until the end of the year," he said.
Huddersfield winger Jermaine McGillvary, a star of the World Cup with seven tries in six appearances, admits that after an injury-hit season so far with his club, it is Bennett's loyalty rather than current form that has enabled him to keep his place in the team.
"There's only been one season in Super League where I've absolutely killed it and that was in 2015 when I played one game for England," McGillvary said.
"Ever since then I wouldn't say I've set Super League alight. 2016 was my worst season ever but I played in the four Nations and did well.
"And last year I wouldn't say I was outstanding in Super League but I did well in the World Cup.
"Wayne knows what I'm capable of when I put the shirt on and I reckon that counted a lot, definitely not my form. He knows what I bring to the team.
"I'm grateful that he's stuck by me, like he has in the past, and I don't think I've ever let the team down."