Sam Tomkins expects Oliver Gildart to make the most of his opportunity with England, having witnessed him come through the ranks at Wigan.
The 23-year-old Gildart, who was Super League’s young player of the year in 2017, will make his Test debut against the touring New Zealanders in the opening game of the three-match series at Hull’s KCOM Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
He was due to go on the England Knights tour to Papua New Guinea until being drafted into the senior squad as a replacement for Sam Burgess and will now form part of a new centre partnership alongside Jake Connor.
“Gilly fully deserves it,” said Tomkins. “He’s been really good for us.
“He had some pressure coming into a successful Wigan side as a young kid a few years ago and took his opportunity as soon as he got in.
“He cemented his spot and I’m sure he can have that for as long as he wants.
“He’s still getting better and better, that’s the good thing about Gilly. From when he came into the team to now, he’s a completely different player.”
While Gildart makes his Test bow, Tomkins will win his 24th cap after coach Wayne Bennett ended his four-year international exile.
Tomkins, who was switched to full-back by New Zealand coach Michael Maguire during his time at Wigan in 2010, is chosen at scrum-half in the absence of Gareth Widdop and Luke Gale.
The England pack is NRL-centric with the Burgess twins, Tom and George, lining up alongside former St Helens favourite James Graham and Canberra pair Elliott Whitehead and Josh Hodgson, but it is Wigan’s veteran loose forward Sean O’Loughlin who has been identified as a major threat.
New Zealand prop Jess Bromwich said: “When I look at their team, that’s their real strength.
“They’ve got a great forward pack and I think one of their best players is their lock and their captain Sean O’Loughlin, who has been doing a great job for many, many years.”