Alex Walmsley is determined to push on in the World Cup after completing his recovery from a debilitating illness to make his England debut.
The Dewsbury-born prop has revealed how he spent three days on a drip after being felled by a mystery virus and is still striving to put the weight back on that he lost in the build-up to the opening game of the tournament against Australia.
Walmsley was forced to miss that clash in Sydney but recovered sufficiently to win his first cap in Saturday’s 29-10 win over Lebanon at the Sydney Football Stadium.
“To finally get out there and put the shirt on was a huge honour,” he said. “It was a very proud moment in my career.
“I’ve been close on occasions before and at one point last week I thought I was never going to make it.
“It was a really tough illness and it knocked me for six. I was struggling for a good week and finding myself on a drip for three days wasn’t ideal leading into a World Cup.
“I’m still working to put the weight back on but the doc has done a great job with me, getting me back fit and this game was important for me to build on, getting a few minutes under my belt and hopefully I can continue to do that next week against France and build for the rest of the tournament.”
England flew out of Sydney to set up camp once more in Perth, where they spent 10 days before the tournament began, to prepare for their final group match against France.
Although England got off the mark with victory over Lebanon, it was largely an under-whelming performance as they failed to build on a 22-6 half-time lead.
“There were aspects where we were good I think,” said Walmsley. “There was a lot of energy, a lot of effort, in our defence in particular.
“I think for the vast majority of the game we defended really well.
“We were a bit scratchy with the ball so there’s something to work on there but I think the main objective was getting the win, which we did. We completed in that sense but there’s also lots to build on.”
England coach Wayne Bennett was pleased with the debut of Walmsley, who ran 135 metres and made six tackles and is looking to make bigger contributions throughout the rest of the tournament.
“I was happy with how it went personally,” he said.
“There were no errors. It was important to put in a strong start, especially coming off the back of a bit of illness. I’m happy to do whatever Wayne wants me to do.
“I’m not going to be a forward who is going to do 60 or 70 minutes, I’m going to come on and give 15 or 20 minutes of good energy, that’s my role in the team.”