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.

Wednesday, 21st March 2018, 12:08 pm
Updated Wednesday, 21st March 2018, 12:10 pm
Mark Percival training with the England camp

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.

Percival has been in fine form for St Helens this season

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.

Percival has been in fine form for St Helens this season

“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!