CASTLEFORD TIGERS half-back Luke Gale reckons adversity over the past 12 months has made him a better player.
The 28-year-old, who is from Leeds and began his career in Rhinos’ academy, is set to make his England debut in today’s showdown with France in Avignon.
A year ago he had to watch all four autumn internationals from the sidelines as an unused member of Steve McNamara’s squad.
He went on to be voted the best scrum-half in Super League for the second successive season after a series of outstanding displays for injury-hit Tigers and has been included in the initial 19 for this afternoon’s Test.
“It is tough to put into words how excited I am about the opportunity,” Gale admitted.
“I think every year you play as a professional you grow as a player – especially at the top level like Super League.
“I’ve learned more in the last year than I can remember, particularly how to deal with adversity.
“At Castleford we’ve lost plenty of men due to injury and I’ve had to step up as captain, so it’s been a tough, yet enjoyable, year.”
Gale, who is a member of new boss Wayne Bennett’s leadership group, admitted he was motivated by the disappointment of his non-selection in 2015.
“Last year with England came into it too,” he said.
“It’s frustrating when you’re called into camp for a full series and don’t play.
“You’re desperate to get the call because you think you’re so close.
“It didn’t happen, but it can drive you on and make you more determined.
“It wasn’t a nice feeling, but it can only spur you on.”
A good performance this afternoon could secure Gale’s place against New Zealand in England’s Ladbrokes Four Nations opener at Huddersfield next Saturday.
“I’m desperate to get out there at last,” he added.
“Being in the 19-man squad is a bit of a dream, but my attention has already shifted to getting that shirt on and fingers crossed I get the nod from Wayne.
“This is my chance to impress him if I play, I know that.
“It’s up to me to take it and convince him I can start in game one against the Kiwis.”
Gale said he is expecting a “tough, tough game” against France, but is confident England can go on to Four Nations glory over the next month.
“Winning it is the goal, 100 per cent,” he said of the tournament which also involves Australia and Scotland and concludes with a final at Anfield, Liverpool, on Sunday, November 20.
“We haven’t spoken about the opposition, but we’ve focussed massively on the prize. We’re our biggest critics, but we know our destiny is in our own hands.
“The opposition we play may be world-class, but so are we.
“We’ll show people what we can do when the tournament ticks around next week. It’s a thoroughly exciting group to be part of and I’m humbled beyond belief to be involved with it.”