WELSH recruit Gil Dudson has already made his mark on coach Shaun Wane... without even playing a game.
The prop reported for training at his new club this week – well ahead of schedule – to give himself the best possible chance of success.
The 21-year-old had been given more time following his involvement in the Four Nations.
But he turned down the offer of an extended break in order to begin pre-season training sessions alongside the bulk of the Warriors squad.
Coach Wane revealed: “Gil was really keen to get started – he wanted to get into it now.
“He realises there’s improvement in him and he’s hungry to learn and improve, and that’s very pleasing to see.”
Dudson proved his mettle with some strong displays against England, New Zealand and Australia during the Four Nations series.
And Wane reckons the 17-stone prop will feel the benefit of a full off-season under the expert eye of conditioning guru Mark Bitcon, ahead of his debut campaign with the Warriors in 2012.
“Gil’s a big, strong unit and I’m looking forward to working with him,” said Wane.
“He needs a bit of work, but Mark’s the man to do that.
“I was impressed with how he went in the Four Nations.
“He handled himself well against some of the best players in the world and I’m confident he can become an even better player.
“One thing about Gil is his work-rate is really good.
“He’s still young at 21, especially for a prop, and it’s a big step for him to come here to a club like Wigan.
“But he’s really looking forward to it and I think he will fit in really well.”
Wane moved for Dudson and fellow Welsh international Ben Flower to bolster their pack when Crusaders withdrew from Super League.
Back-rower Flower is due to start training at the club next Monday, also ahead of schedule, with fellow Four Nations representatives Sam Tomkins, Thomas Leuluai and Mike McIlorum back for a pre-season trip to Florida on July 12.
The arrival of Dudson and Flower came as Wigan created a link with lower-league outfit South Wales Scorpions to try and nurture young Welsh talent. Promising centre Rhodri Lloyd joined the club, Welsh head coach and former Crusaders boss Iestyn Harris was appointed Wane’s assistant, and Wales RU legend Gareth Thomas took an ambassador role.
Former Wigan prop Andy Coley is overseeing the club’s link with Wales, in addition to his welfare and educational duties at the Warriors.