Ben Currie will finally get to wear the international shirt he has had his eyes on for the last four years when England warm up for the World Cup today.
The 23-year-old Warrington second row forward is one of two uncapped players in coach Wayne Bennett’s 24-man squad who will got a chance to impress when the tourists play a Combined Affiliated States team in Perth (11.45am).
It was a big shock but it was a goal of mine to be here. I didn’t play too many games but I finished the last two with 80-minute performances so I’m fit and ready to go and I’m fresh as well.Ben Currie
St Helens’s Dewsbury-born prop Alex Walmsley is the other new face pushing for a place in next Friday’s World Cup opener against Australia in Melbourne.
Currie has been on England’s radar since being invited, along with Leeds Rhinos’ Stevie Ward and John Bateman, to train with the squad on the eve of the 2013 World Cup and is expected to become one of the first centrally-contracted players in the New Year.
The teenage Currie went on to play for Ireland, for whom he also qualifies, and actually went up against England in a World Cup group game in Huddersfield, but duly got a senior call-up two years later only to become a non-playing member of Steve McNamara’s squad for the New Zealand Test series.
“There were only three games,” he recalled. “I think if we’d have won the second one to wrap the series up I might have got my chance then but Steve Mac didn’t want to change his team.”
Currie would have got his big chance 12 months later under Bennett but for a serious knee injury sustained in the closing stages of the Super League season.
That injury also ruined his 2017 campaign but Currie never lost hope and was sustained through the long, dark days by the regular long-distance phone calls from Brisbane-based Bennett.
“I spoke to him a handful of times throughout the year,” Currie said.
“He wanted to see how my fitness was, just keeping track of me really.
“For the head coach to ring you, just to see how you are, was real good of him.”
When Currie made a try-scoring comeback at Wigan in July, he had eight matches left to press his claims for a World Cup spot but he damaged the same knee in the following game and feared his chance had gone.
“The next day the knee swelled up and I thought it must have gone again,” he recalled. “But the consultant took a look at it and said it was strong and stable and that I’d just stretched it a little bit. He was happy for me to rehab it for a couple of weeks. It was a long travel down to London to find out but a happy journey back.”
Another six weeks on the sidelines meant for another nervous time but a phone call from England manager Jamie Peacock delivered the news he had been praying for.
“I couldn’t stop smiling,” he said. “It was a big shock but it was a goal of mine to be here. I didn’t play too many games but I finished the last two with 80-minute performances so I’m fit and ready to go and I’m fresh as well.”
Scotland coach Steve McCormack, meanwhile, says he will use today’s warm-up game against a New South Wales Country XIII to finalise his line-up to face a star-studded Tonga in their opening Group B game in Cairns on Sunday, October 29.
“They look a decent side and they will give us a good test,” McCormack said.
“It will be a good chance for some of these younger players to stake a claim for a spot against Tonga the week after.
“All four teams in our group are world class teams. All our emphasis is on Tonga first.”