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Bradford Bulls ace Elliott Whitehead driven by burning England ambition
Elliott Whitehead is eyeing a recall to the international fold after laying down an emphatic marker during Sunday’s opening pre-season friendly at Dewsbury.
The homegrown second-rower underlined his class by claiming four of the Bulls’ eight tries and producing a delightful assist for Matty Blythe.
Whitehead’s formidable display continued the form he showed last term, when he scored 15 tries, won top tackler and best forward of 2012 in the Bulls’ end-of-season awards.
He would have almost certainly played for the second-tier England Knights already had he not copped a five-game ban for biting the arm of an opponent during the home defeat to Hull KR in August 2011.
That lengthy suspension meant he could not play for the Knights at the end of 2011 and also forced him to miss the start of last season.
But he is now looking ripe to re-establish his England credentials ahead of the World Cup later this year.
“Obviously I want to play at the highest level possible and would have probably played for the Knights had I not got that ban,” said 23-year-old Whitehead.
“Every player wants to play for his country and go as far as they can, so I’ll be looking to get back in the Knights squad and then take it from there.
“There is a lot of competition in the back row at international level but all I can do is my best and hopefully Steve Mac (McNamara) and the England coaches will take notice again.
“I was happy with how Sunday went at Dewsbury and it was a good first hit-out for us.”
Whitehead’s close pal and Bulls team-mate Luke Gale is now established within the Knights set-up and could conceivably be joined in the squad this year by Whitehead, John Bateman and possibly other Bulls hopefuls.
Bradford coach Francis Cummins believes Whitehead has the ability to make the grade at the highest level, although he said: “You can see Elliott’s talent but he has to become more consistent.
“He’s got the ability to go where he wants but, like everybody in the squad, he’s going to have to make sacrifices to achieve it.
“If Elliott sees the England Knights as his next step, then he needs to target it and go hard at it.
“I don’t think he’s taken it that seriously in the past, which is probably why he didn’t get back in the squad last year, but he reads the game so well and is a real rugby league player.
“We’ve got a number of back-rowers looking really good at the moment – Tom Olbison has been outstanding during pre-season – and it’s up to these young men to achieve their potential.”
The Bulls will train indoors at the Sports Barn in Huddersfield for three days this week as the big freeze grips the country.