Wigan centre said “it’s a massive honour” to be selected for England for the first time
Gildart is joined by Sam Tomkins, Sean O’Loughlin, John Bateman and George Williams
- England face New Zealand in the first of three Test matches at the KCOM Stadium on Saturday
Wigan’s Oliver Gildart has said “It’s a massive honour” to be selected for England for the first time as they face New Zealand on Saturday at the KCOM Stadium (K.O. 2:30pm)
The 22-year-old, who is uncapped for his country, was originally called up to play for the England Knights. However, when Sam Burgess withdrew from the squad due to injury, Gildart was brought in to the first team.
Today it was announced that he would line up in the 17-man squad to face New Zealand on Saturday and Gildart expressed his excitement. He said, “I can’t wait! Obviously as a young kid this has been a massive dream of mine. It’s probably not sunk in that I’m playing yet but it’s a massive honour for me.”
He continued, “I remember coming as a kid to watch a test series in Huddersfield and looking back now it’s pretty crazy I get my chance to run out there.”
Heading into a new squad with a number of high profile players is certainly something that at least initially played on Gildart’s mind. He said, “Before the camp I was pretty nervous with all of the senior players and lads I’ve looked up to growing up, it was pretty daunting. Once I’ve got in everyone’s been really good to me and I feel settled now.”
The first game against the Kiwis takes place at the KCOM Stadium, the sides then meet at Anfield (4th Nov) and Elland Road (11th Nov). Gildart hoped England fans in Hull will get the 3 match series off to a flyer. He said, “When you play here at Hull FC away it’s usually packed out. It’s a great atmosphere so hopefully we will get that as well.
The centre’s inclusion in the England squad follows his Grand Final win with Wigan, something that Gildart explained will round off a perfect couple of weeks. He said, “It’ll be the best two weeks of my life if we can go out there and win tomorrow.”
Another England player fresh off the back of a Wigan Grand Final win is Sam Tomkins, who had plenty to say on Oliver Gildart’s inclusion in the team. He said, “He fully deserves it, he’s been really good for us. Gilly has had some pressure coming into the Wigan side as a young kid a few years ago and he took his opportunity as soon as he got it. He’s had to do a bit of fighting for his spot, but he’s cemented that at Wigan and I’m sure he can have that as long as he wants with the form he’s showing. He’s still getting better and better, that’s the good thing about Gilly.
Unlike Gildart, Tomkins has over 20 caps for England, however, h explained that the feeling of representing his country is something that never diminishes over time. “There’s nothing like pulling on the England jersey. It’s the highest honour and it means more than any club game, to pull on that jersey and represent your country, it’s huge.”
Of course, England will come up against very challenging opposition in the three Autumn fixtures, with New Zealand fresh off the back of beating world champions Australia in Auckland recently.
On the quality of side England will be faced by, Tomkins said, “They are a good side, we saw what they produced against Australia a couple of weeks ago. They’ve got threats right across the field so we are going to have to defend really well because they throw a lot at you.”
He continued, “With Nikorima and Johnson in the halves they’ve got some real attacking flair and a couple of guys who can cause problems from nothing. We know we’ve got a big job on our hands but equally we are confident in what we can produce.”
England face ex-Wigan head coach Michael Maguire’s New Zealand side in the first test of the 3 match series at 2:30pm at the KCOM Stadium on Saturday.
England team to face New Zealand
Lomax (St Helens); McGillvary (Huddersfield), Gildart (Wigan), Connor (Hull), Makinson (St Helens); Williams (Wigan), Tomkins (Wigan); Hill (Warrington), Hodgson (Canberra), Graham (St George Illawarra), Whitehead (Canberra), Bateman (Wigan), O’Loughlin (Wigan, capt).
Interchange: Clark (Warrington), T Burgess (South Sydney), G Burgess (South Sydney), Thompson (St Helens).
New Zealand team to face England
Watene-Zelezniak (Penrith, capt); Maumalo (NZ Warriors), Marsters (Wests Tigers), Manu (Sydney Roosters), Rapana (Canberra); Johnson (NZ Warriors), Nikorima (Brisbane); Bromwich (Melbourne), Smith (Melbourne), Waerea-Hargreaves (Sydney Roosters), Proctor (Gold Coast), Liu (Sydney Roosters), Fisher-Harris (Penrith).
Interchange: Bromwich (Melbourne), Ah Mau (St George Illawarra), Taupau (Manly), Blair (NZ Warriors).