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PAUL McSHANE and Joe Westerman will provide tangible evidence that age is no barrier to international recognition when they run out for England tomorrow.
Castleford hooker McShane will make his England debut against the Combined Nations All Stars at the age of 31 while Wakefield loose forward Westerman, also 31, will make his second appearance, seven years after his first.
McShane confesses he thought he was “past it” but his England call-up caps a remarkable 12 months after he was named Man of Steel in 2020 and he says it is largely down to the faith and perseverance of his club coach Daryl Powell.
“I probably gave in a couple of years ago,” he said. “I thought I was past it. With my age, I thought it would be younger lads coming in so I kind of wrote it off.
“But I’ve had Powelly on at me every year saying ‘keep pushing for it and it will come’ and I’m thankful for him doing that.
“It’s been a mad 12 months or so. Man of Steel is something I’m really proud of and it’s given me a lot of confidence in my ability. I think that’s showing this year.”
Powell has paid tribute to England coach Shaun Wane for showing his belief in the veteran hooker.
“I’m absolutely delighted for Paul,” said Powell. “It’s something we’ve spoken about for a fair while.
“I’ve worked with him to keep his mind on it. He felt it might have slipped away from him.
“He just needed a coach that would believe in him in the international squad and he’s got that now.
“He’s going to get an opportunity and I’m confident he’ll be able to take it. He’s been a phenomenal player over a number of years and I couldn’t be any prouder.”
Westerman, who will be a teammate of McShane when he moves from Wakefield at the end of the season, admits that he had given up hope of getting back in the England team.
But the former Hull and Warrington back-rower has been in outstanding form for his club this year and traces that back to a tough pre-season that got him in the best physical shape.
“I’m getting older so I’ve had to recover better and the gym and lifestyle has all had to change a little bit,” said Westerman, who made his England debut against Samoa in 2014.
“I’ve worked hard with Martin Clawson, the conditioner at Wakey, from the off season and got probably the fittest I’ve been for a long time. It shows on the field a little bit.
“It’s good to be back around the England set-up again. I didn’t think I would get back.
“Shaun Wane showed his intentions, if you’re playing well, you’ve a chance of getting picked and, when you get the opportunity, you grab it with both hands.
“I just wish I knew in 2014 what I know now. Back then my form was all right but my head wasn’t in as good a place as it is now. That’s the biggest one for me.
“It would be massive to play on Friday, not just for me but for my family. I had my little girl not long after the first game and now I’ve got a little boy so for the family to see me in an England top would be really good.”
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