Oliver Gildart expects intense battle for England centre spots

Oliver Gildart is relishing the competition among the centres this year as they target places in Shaun Wane’s England squad.
Oliver Gildart made his England debut in 2018Oliver Gildart made his England debut in 2018
Oliver Gildart made his England debut in 2018

Both he and Wigan teammate Zak Hardaker were in Wayne Bennett's Great Britain side at the end of 2019.

And with the likes of Mark Percival (St Helens), Kallum Watkins (Salford), Harry Newman (Leeds) and Brisbane utility back Herbie Farnworth in the mix, Wane will have no shortage of options as he prepares for the World Cup at the end of the year.

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Gildart’s immediate focus is on a strong start to the campaign with Wigan but he admits the international tournament is a big goal of his this year.

The 24-year-old, who marked his England debut with a stunning try against New Zealand in 2018, said: “The big one is the World Cup at the end of the year, would be my first and something I’ve always wants to do.

“To do that I know I need to perform consistently every week and be the best centre I can be.

“There’s some very good competition for the spots, in previous years it may have been a position we struggled in.

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“Usually Kal (Watkins) cemented one spot, and I’m sure he’ll be a contender again and hopefully he’s back to his best at Salford.

“But there are loads of lads knocking about and it’s good, healthy competition and it’s a pressure for the lads to perform and I like it.”

He believes the timing of this year’s home World Cup could give the sport a timely boost.

Organisers seem increasingly hopeful this autumn’s event will go ahead as the vaccine roll-out gathers pace.

Gildart said: “I think it could be massive. They seem confident it’ll be on and if we can get a World Cup in, after what we’ve all been through, it could attract more fans to our sport.”