KALLUM Watkins insists England’s World Cup chances are a matter of belief – just like Andy Ackers’ rise to the squad.
But he feels as good as he did in 2017, when he came arguably an ankle tap from helping his country to the trophy.
The Salford star is one of three Red Devils in Shaun Wane’s 24-man party, half-back Marc Sneyd is the other.
And he revealed how hooker Ackers’ sensational form that earned him a place, after playing part-time rugby league at Swinton Lions, is largely down to convincing himself he is good enough.
Watkins said: “A mix of senior players and coaching staff has helped Andy.
“Salford’s coach, Paul Rowley, has been big in giving him that confidence to just go out there and play.
“That’s showed on the field, he’s been great – especially towards the end of the year. He’s been the best hooker in Super League.
“Andy’s quite humble in how he thinks and how he sees things but he’s been consistent in what he’s done this year. He just wants to do his best for his family and the team.
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“If you’re playing well, these opportunities will come and for me, he’s a top quality operator. It was just about getting that confidence and an opportunity, which he’ll take with both hands.
“Both Andy and Marc will bring confidence from the form they’ve brought into the tournament, especially from the middle to the back end of the year.
“Marc’s always been a player who likes to control the game. His kicking game is always spot on and Andy has progressed year on year, he’s gained that confidence to back himself a lot more.
“How much it means to them showed in their reactions to being picked. Marc was taken aback by it. He’s been waiting a long time for that opportunity and has been close a few times – this time, though, is his time.”
Watkins is set to play at centre, even though he has excelled at second row for Salford, as England look to go one better than 2017#s nearest of misses, a 6-0 final loss to Australia.
The path has been far from smooth – two serious knee injuries, a mid-season move to the NRL and various other issues.
But a new mentality has seen the 31-year-old bounce back to the Kallum Watkins many fans know – the one who was agonisingly ankle-tapped by Josh Dugan as he broke in Brisbane.
He added: “Things have changed off the field but in terms of my mental state and how I am on the field, I’m pretty similar to 2017.
“That’s good as it’s going to give me great confidence going into camp. This year’s been really good, both on and off the field. I’m happy with where I’m at in life.
“I get reminders every now and again about the ankle tap, they just remind me of how close we got to winning it. For us it’s just about believing and everyone in a really good squad is here for a reason.
“We’ve tough opposition ahead – that’s a challenge but the way it should be.”
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