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WALM front; saints prop fit and raring to go in for bid to reach grand final.

Byline: IAN LAYBOURN Rugby League Reporter

ST HELENS prop Alex Walmsley is fit and raring to go for what promises to be a momentous end to the year.

The England forward has his sights set on a trip to Old Trafford as he seeks to make up for the disappointment of Wembley and also hopes to make the Great Britain squad for the historic tour down under.

The Super League leaders will go into Friday's qualifying semifinal against Wigan rested from their first week off of the year and with a chance to earn another free weekend ahead of the October 12 Grand Final. Walmsley admits playing one match in three weeks carries a certain amount of risk, especially after conceding he was "underdone" for the Challenge Cup final after sitting out the month leading up to it through injury, but believes the positives outweigh the negatives.

"You can look at it from both sides," he said. "We earned the week off which enabled us to not just freshen our bodies but to put in some good, intense training on the back of that.

"On the flip side, Wigan will be match hardened, especially after coming through a tough game against Salford. But the difference between this and the Challenge Cup final is that a few of us missed games through injury and yes we were a bit underdone. I personally wasn't as sharp as I had been but you pick up injuries and miss games.

"Unfortunately it came at a bit of a bad time but I'm in a position now where we've had a really good week's preparation and hopefully it will put us in good stead for Friday."

A strong finish to the domestic season would boost Walmsley's hopes of making the cut when Lions coach Wayne Bennett finalises his squad for the tour to New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.

Walmsley was a huge success for England in the 2017 World Cup down under but is not taking a Great Britain call-up for granted.

"We've got some great boys down in Australia who are playing unbelievable in my position so there's lots of competition for those spots," he said. "There's tough competition in Super League as well. Liam Watts has had a fantastic year and you would expect Chris Hill to be a shoe-in. If I'm playing well enough for St Helens and I'm in and amongst it, that will do me and hopefully I get that nod.

"Jamie Peacock normally rings you on the Sunday after the Grand Final and, you never know, we might have played in the Grand Final and we'll either be drowning our sorrows or celebrating a great win in the pub." If he gets that call from the national team manager it would complete a meteoric rise through the ranks for Walmsley, who steadily worked his way up through the grassroots of the game.

"I've got so much to be thankful for," said Walmsley, who is an ambassador for a campaign that recognises heroes in rugby league.

"It's a fantastic way of celebrating everyone in our game who goes above and beyond, right from the professional game down to the grassroots and the parents who take their kids to training," he added.

| Alex Walmsley is working with Dacia on their We Make Heroes campaign, celebrating understated heroes throughout Rugby League. To find out more, visit

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Author:IAN LAYBOURN Rugby League Reporter
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 25, 2019
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