Come and cheer England lads on

Jon Wilkin
Jon Wilkin

JON Wilkin has called on rugby league fans to support the new England v Exiles format.

Wilkin is expected to be part of the England squad, which takes on an Exiles side at Headingley Carnegie Stadium, including St Helens teammates Tony Puletua and Sio Soliala, on Friday.

But the 27-year-old – part of the 22-man training squad along with teammates James Graham and Michael Shenton – says fans need to get behind the initiative if it is to become a regular fixture.

“In the past, rugby league has had ideas for the international game which look good on paper but don’t get the support,” admitted the Hull-born star.

“This is a great thing, and we need to get Headingley booming.

“From a St Helens point of view, the timing could be better because, realistically, you don’t want a load of the senior players knocking lumps out of each other when we’re already down to the bare bones.”

It’s a welcome return to the international fold for Wilkin, who missed last season’s Four Nations tournament through injury.

“It’s a great feeling to be back with England,” said Wilkin. “I think with the new set-up we’ve got, the aim is for England to be the elite of rugby league, and everything about the new ETS system has that feeling about it.

“It’s a great environment to be in, and you get everything you need to be successful, and hopefully we can translate that into success on the pitch.

“For the players, any international game is a massive occasion, and we need everyone involved in the game to embrace test matches and start filling stadiums, and I think the Exiles game is a great way of exciting the fans.

“The Exiles have got a very strong squad, and I think the game will be ferocious and very physical.

“As players, we all want to see a full house with a great atmosphere, and the fans roaring us on and creating an event for everyone in the sport to be proud of, and an event that everyone wants to be a part of.”