Jermaine McGillvary hails St Helens rival Tommy Makinson as 'the best winger in Super League'

Jermaine McGillvary is tackled by Shaun Johnson of New Zealand during the semi-final of  the Rugby League World Cup 9s in Sydney
Jermaine McGillvary is tackled by Shaun Johnson of New Zealand during the semi-final of the Rugby League World Cup 9s in Sydney

Jermaine McGillvary says he is determined to help make up for the loss of his wing rival Tommy Makinson on the Great Britain tour.

Makinson, who won the Golden Boot as international player of the year in 2018, was forced to pull out of the trip after dislocating a shoulder in St Helens' Grand Final triumph.

That has left McGillvary and former Leeds favourite Ryan Hall as the only specialist wing men in Wayne Bennett's 24-strong squad and, as a result, automatic picks for the opening game against a Tongan Invitational XIII in Hamilton on Saturday.

The pair have been prolific for England - Hall holds the record for most tries with 35 in 38 appearances - but McGillvary, who has scored 12 in 17, accepts that one of them would have been forced to make way for a fit Makinson.

"Tommy is the best winger in Super League and one of the best wingers in the world," McGillvary said. "For sure he would be a starting winger.

"It's unfortunate that he's not here, but me and Hally get the chance and hopefully we can do it justice because he was outstanding in the Test series last year and he's been outstanding all through the season as well."

McGillvary has been a mainstay of the England team since breaking into it under Steve McNamara in 2015 but says the return of Great Britain adds a whole new dimension to the international game.

He selection gives him the chance to emulate another Huddersfield-born winger of Caribbean descent, Henderson Gill, his childhood hero who starred for Wigan and Great Britain in the 1980s.

"I'm over the moon to be selected for Great Britain," McGillvary said. "It's something I dreamed of as a kid watching Henderson Gill.

"I didn't know there was an England national team. Growing up, for me Great Britain was the pinnacle, watching on the BBC when they were playing the Aussies.

"This is a dream come true honestly, I'm proud and hopefully I can go out there and do my best."

McGillvary found himself at home in Britain's first training session in Hamilton as they stepped up their preparations for the game at the Waikato Stadium.

"The conditions are probably similar to England - torrential rain and sunshine and the pitch is boggy in places - but the training session was quality," he said.

For Gareth Widdop, the fresh air of Hamilton was a welcome change from a smoke-filled Auckland after the tourists were forced to undertake a rapid evacuation to due a major city-centre fire.

"It was a bit dramatic actually," Widdop said. "Me, Jonny Lomax and Chris Hill were just walking out of the launderette when we saw hundreds of people out on the road.

"At first we thought it was a workers' strike but the next minute we saw flames and smoke coming out of the building.

"It wasn't the best out there, to be honest, there was a lot of people walking around with towels over their mouths and it was recommended that we stay indoors.

"We went back into the hotel and were just sitting around when we got told to bag our bags and it out we go. We hopped on a bus and moved down to Hamilton.

"We were heading out to Hamilton on Wednesday so it wasn't too much of a hassle."