Oliver Gildart has proved he belongs on the international stage.
That is the verdict of his Wigan team-mate George Williams as the duo prepare to watch England open their autumn international series tonight.
Wayne Bennett’s outfit face France at Leigh Sports Village.
Players from the Grand Final will be there as spectators before heading into camp on Friday and Williams is delighted his good friend has been added to the 24-man panel.
Gildart was praised for his display in the 14-0 semi-final win against Castleford, for putting the shackles on Michael Shenton.
And the 22-year-old backed that up with some fine moments in the 12-4 Grand Final win against Warrington, including some classy touches for Dom Manfredi’s opening try.
Williams said: “What a game Gilly had, he was unbelievable.
“He was playing against a centre in Bryson Goodwin who’s very good – one of the best in the league – and he had nothing on him, which shows how good Oli is.
“He showed he deserves to be at this level.
“People forget how young he is and he’s only going to get better.”
Wigan’s John Bateman, Sean O’Loughlin, Joe Greenwood and Sam Tomkins are also in the England squad, while Morgan Escare and Romain Navarrete are likely to figure in France’s remaining autumn matches against Ireland, Scotland, Wales and New Zealand.
Ex-St Helens prop James Graham will captain England tonight in the absence of O’Loughlin.
The side has a sprinkling of players from the Knights squad which will head off Down Under later this week to prepare for two matches with Papua New Guinea.
“Obviously, I’m very proud and even though I’ve done it before, it’s an indescribable feeling to lead out your country,” said Graham, the St George Illawarra front-rower.
“The camp’s been good, it’s a little different in terms of we’ve not got the full complement of players but the lads who have come in have done a great job so far. For us, like always, it’s about trying to do the little things well.”
Saints prop Luke Thompson – a former class-mate of Joe Burgess at Edmund Arrowsmith High in Ashton – is set to make his debut.
“Luke was unfortunate not to play in Denver (in mid-season) but that’s sport and I’m looking forward to seeing how he takes it,” added Graham.
“He’s up there with the best front-rowers in the world as far as I’m concerned.”