John Bateman has revealed the England team is the ‘closest he’s been part of’ as they prepare for the knock-out stages of the World Cup.
The Warriors forward has played at centre for Wayne Bennett throughout the tournament and is again in the squad as England take on France on Sunday as they effectively warm-up for a quarter-final showdown with Papua New Guinea.
And as the business end of the competition nears, Bateman, who made his international debut in 2015, says the environment in the England camp is ideal to work in.
“I’ve been involved with this group of people for the last few years, and it’s good,” he said. “There are no divides in the squad. It’s probably the closest team environment I’ve been involved in, to be fair.”
Reports of divides in the England squad surfaced during the 2008 World Cup campaign, but Bateman says this team has no such problem.
“They’re a good set of lads, it’s good being amongst it – the World Cup has really taken off,” he said. “You can have banter when you play with them during the season. I class most of them as my good mates. It’s like a club environment, everyone gets on.”
Coach Bennett has reshuffled his squad for Sunday’s clash with France with a view to giving fringe players some game time before the knock-out stages. And with Saints centre Mark Percival being brought in, Bateman insists he has no problem with being given some competition for his place. “It’s a good thing. We’ve a squad of 24 and every one of them is a good player,” he said.
“Wayne is putting pressure on us and it brings out the best of you.”
The 24-year-old is used to playing in Australia, having captained England Academy on tour in 2012 and appearing for Wigan in the 2014 World Club Challenge against Sydney Roosters. But he admits he is missing his family, and daughter Millie, as the weeks away from home pass by.
“I miss all my family, it’s easier with technology but I’m looking forward to seeing her again, but she understands it’s part of my job,” he explained.
“It’s a journey and there’s a big goal at the end of it.”
And when Bateman returns, he will link-up with his Wigan team-mates as they look to rectify a disappointing 2017 campaign next term.
But for now, his focus is still fixed on his country. He said: “There’s no point crying over spilt milk, it’s gone now. I’m here now to play for England and do a job.”