Write underdogs England off at your peril, cautions Leeds Rhinos ace Watkins

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THREE-TIME Super League champion Kallum Watkins reckons England can take a leaf from Leeds Rhinos’ book, by winning a competition they’ve been given no chance in.

Watkins will jet to Australia tomorrow just five days on from playing in Rhinos’ 24-6 Betfred Super League Grand Final win over Castleford Tigers.

Kallum Watkins

Kallum Watkins

Rhinos overturned the odds after being written-off at the start of the year and going into the title decider as underdogs.

Hosts Australia are expected to retain the World Cup, but Watkins – one of two Leeds players in the squad alongside Ryan Hall – is convinced it is a great opportunity for England.

“We have gone under the radar and we’ve been pretty much written off in terms of getting to the Grand Final,” Watkins said of Rhinos’ shock success.

“We were written off in the Grand Final as well, because Cas have been playing so well and they’ve been the best team by a mile.

Ryan Hall

Ryan Hall

“That took the pressure off us and we just concentrated on what we needed to do.

“We needed to come up with a performance [in the Grand Final] and we certainly did that.

“It’s the same for England, it is all about belief – believing in your team-mates, knowing the talent we’ve got, but also putting in the hard work.”

England’s elite performance group have held regular meetings throughoutthe season. The World Cup squad will have a week to prepare before a warm-up game against Affiliated States in Perth on Friday, October 20.

Stevie Ward

Stevie Ward

They open the tournament against the Aussies in Melbourne a week later and also face group ties against Lebanon and France.

“The positive with England is spending time together,” Watkins said.

“I think that time is going to be crucial for us and we have got to work hard now towards the first game in Australia.

“Saturday was an example of that and how when the odds are against us and the pressure’s off we can produce the goods.”

Watkins is still on a high from the Old Trafford win, when he landed three goals from four attempts.

“I am really chuffed,” he said. “I am really proud of the boys.

“We set a goal we wanted to achieve.

“It has been a tough 18 months.

“After the 2015 Grand Final three key players and key leaders left our club and the journey has been really tough, but it has developed a lot of players and given a lot of players experience.

“It has developed a lot of leaders in this team and that has helped us throughout the year.”

Watkins has enjoyed Leeds’ title celebrations, but is now ready to concentrate on the World Cup.

“Leeds is the main thing I’ve been focusing on and I’ve had England at the back of my mind,” he said.

“We’ve celebrated what a fantastic season it has been, but when the time comes I will be fully focused on that [England].

“The aim is to win the World Cup and we have got to produce our best performances out there.”

Meanwhile, Rhinos’ Stevie Ward was set to be included in England’s World Cup squad before suffering a dislocated shoulder.

He played in the Grand Final just eight days later, but will not travel to Australia as he needs time to fully recover.

Ward is also eligible for Wales, but they have agreed not to select him for the same reason.

Wigan centre Oliver Gildart has pulled out of Italy’s World Cup squad as he wants to concentrate on club pre-season.