Huddersfield Giants star Jermaine McGillvary reckons it is coach Wayne Bennett’s loyalty rather than his own form which has kept him in the England side for the Test against New Zealand in Denver.
The 29-year-old has had an injury-hit season at the John Smith’s Stadium and is honest enough to admit his feelings about being involved in the USA – proud though he is.
McGillvary, a star of the World Cup who has scored 12 tries in 12 appearances for his country, is returning to his best form and will be hoping to keep his try-a-game England record intact agaisnt a New Zealand team including seven debutants.
“There’s been only one season in Super League where I’ve absolutely killed it, and that was in 2015 when I played one game for England,” said McGillvary, who will be back to prepare for the Giants trip to Hull KR next Friday.
“Ever since then, I wouldn’t say I’ve set Super League alight. My worst season ever was 2016 but I played in the Four Nations and did well.
“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.”
New Zealand coach Michael Maguire says it will be the dawn of a new era in Denver after announcing that all seven uncapped players in his touring squad will make their debuts.
Ken Maumalo, Esan Marsters and Jamayne Isaako will all win their first caps among the threequarter line, Raymond Faitala-Mariner is a new face in the second row and Maguire’s four men on the bench will have just one Test appearance between them.
Experienced duo Jordan Kahu and Isaac Liu are the two players Maguire omitted from his 19-man squad for his first match in charge at the Mile High Stadium.
With a spate of retirements and a host of senior players made unavailable for various reasons, there are just seven survivors from the Kiwis side that lost to Fiji in the World Cup quarter-final in Wellington in November while Issac Luke, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Martin Taupau are the only players still standing from the team that last played England in the Four Nations Series at Huddersfield in October 2016.