MICHAEL SHENTON has been catching up with former Castleford Tigers colleague Adam Fletcher as England prepare for their Four Nations opener against Samoa.
The Castleford captain – hoping to get the nod this morning when Steve McNamara named his squad for Saturday’s game in Brisbane – admits there is a relaxed atmosphere in the camp.
They had time off yesterday before the real business begins so Shenton was able to play 18 holes of golf with Fletcher, the Greek international winger who scored eight tries in 13 games for Tigers during 2006 and returned to Wheldon Road again two years later.
Shenton explained: “We had a day off and just got away from rugby completely before we start building up into the Test week.
“I managed to get a game of golf in with Joe Westerman and Adam Fletcher did really look after us.
“He is an awesome guy. He came over from Oz just to see us (Castleford) play at Wembley this season.
“He rang me during that week saying he was in Dubai airport. He said he’d just booked a flight last minute and was on his way over!
“I caught up with him then and have stayed in touch ever since.
“It was 2006 when he was over with us at Cas and we had a great time out on the course with him at his local club.”
England arrived in Queensland last week and Super League Dream Team centre Shenton added: “It’s all been pretty good.
“They have looked after us and the flights and everything else have dropped really well.
“We’ve managed to get a couple of really good days training in with a weights session and a field session, too, going through some of the stuff Steve (McNamara) wants us to do.
“There’s been a bit of fitness as well and I know I’m feeling pretty sharp now.”
Back in the full England set-up for the first time since touring Australia and New Zealand in the 2010 Four Nations, Shenton is desperate to play his part during the tournament.
“I can’t wait,” he said, his last involvement being a non-capped game against the Exiles in 2011.
“It will mean everything to play for England again and hopefully get back into that shirt.
“Whatever, though, the Samoa match is a massive game and so important for us.
“We need to get this tour up and running straight away to give ourselves a chance of winning.
“We need to get a win from the off. We’ve some really young lads in there so it will be good to get a win to build confidence.
“It is a confident group anyway but you don’t know until you get out there just how everyone will fare.”
The last of Shenton’s six Test appearances was in the opening Four Nations game of 2010, the 24-10 defeat to New Zealand in Wellington, ironically the venue for this year’s final.
He played in the 2009 final defeat against Australia at Elland Road and is hopeful of now kick-starting his international career after a stellar season with Castleford saw them reach the Challenge Cup final and secure a club-best Super League finish.
Meanwhile, there is a sizeable Wigan contingent in the England squad with seven players from the beaten Grand Finalists plus their former star Sam Tomkins, Warriors’ assistant coach Paul Deacon and director of performance Mark Bitcon.
With Wigan’s Sean O’Loughlin taking over from Kevin Sinfield as captain and Warriors’ Matty Smith likely to take the Leeds Rhinos skipper’s half-back role, it would be understandable if England now played in a similar style to the Cherry and Whites.
“It’s not a bad way to play is it?” said Shenton, about a regimented system which has its critics but is clearly effective.
“Some of the key players are at Wigan or have Wigan backgrounds, like Matty Smith and Sam Tomkins while Sean O’Loughlin is the leader within that.
“It has a bit of structure but I think we’ll play another style when we can, too.
“There’ll be a mix and I reckon it’ll be pretty exciting to watch. With people like Daz Clark around you want to get the ball out and play off-the-cuff as well. I don’t think we’ll be fixed into one system.”