Percival keen to nail England spot
Mark Percival has sent international boss Wayne Bennett an early season reminder that he is in fine fettle and gunning for a regular spot in the England set-up.
Many pundits thought the Saints’ centre deserved more than the one appearance he made against France in the 2017 World Cup but, as one of the 21-man Elite Performance Squad named ahead of four matches against New Zealand this year, the ball is firmly in his court to prove his undoubted talents, both as a prolific try scorer and a creator of chances.
Hat-tricks in emphatic victories over Castleford Tigers and Warrington Wolves in round one and five of Super League - the first of his senior career following his debut against Leeds Rhinos in 2013 - is just what the doctor ordered and hopefully he will be able to build on it at both club and international level.
“All I want to do is continue to improve as a player with St Helens and display the kind of form which will also bring me further international honours,” said the 23-year-old former Halton Hornets amateur.
It’s no coincidence that his early season try scoring burst has been aided down the edges by a telepathic understanding he has developed with full-back Ben Barba and Zeb Taia who have both benefited from their first pre-season training stint at the club, as well as chipping-in with a further nine tries themselves which means that the trio have a combined total of 16 touchdowns from the 29 scored in the opening six games.
Barba, in particular, has been a great addition to our squad and is helping to bring the best out of his other team-mates.
A few eyebrows were also raised last summer when Percy and club colleague Alex Walmsley travelled 12,000 miles around the world for what in effect was a friendly against Samoa and didn’t make the starting line-up - but the centre insists it was all part of a learning curve on the international stage.
He said: “I was naturally disappointed at not featuring in the mid-season friendly and would have loved to have played more than one game in the subsequent World Cup.
“But being part of the international set-up, especially during a World Cup, helps you progress as a player and just training Down Under in conditions we hardly experience at home was a bonus, too.
“In fact, I learned a great deal from everyone in the squad - the coach, the backroom team and the more experienced players - which I hope I can add to my own game.”
A few more hat-trick wouldn’t go amiss!