Hooker Michael McIlorum is determined to make the most of his last chance to stake a claim for a place in England coach Steve McNamara's World Cup plans.
McIlorum has been James Roby's shadow since switching allegiance from Ireland, but got his opportunity when the St Helens hooker decided to take a break from the international game. The Wigan number nine made his debut in the opening game of the autumn international series against Wales and is set to keep his spot for Sunday's final against France.
With Leeds' Rob Burrow pushing him, McIlorum accepts the competition for places in the England team is stiff, and he said: "It's a good opportunity for me and Rob as well. James plays lot of games for 80 minutes so it's been tough for a lot of English hookers. But I've been given my chance and it's up to me to show what I can do."
He added: "I had a bit of time off with my ban but I'm back into the swing of things now and getting my match fitness back up."
McIlorum, 24, played in all three of Ireland's matches in the 2008 World Cup in Australia, where they lost out to Fiji in a semi-final eliminator, but is now hoping to face both of those teams next year.
England are in the same group as Ireland and the Fijians, as well as Australia, for the preliminary stages of the 2013 World Cup. That could cause some family friction but the Leeds-born McIlorum says his belated England selection justified his decision to risk incurring the wrath of his proud Irish grandad.
"He's just happy to see me play," McIlorum said. "I enjoyed my time with Ireland. I was only 19 or 20 at the time and it was a big opportunity for me.
"I wouldn't change it for the world. It was a good tournament and it helped me as a player and as a person. It would be good to play against them next year."
The autumn international series for England is all about preparing for the World Cup and McIlorum believes the high-altitude training camp in South Africa was a step in the right direction.
"It put us in good stead for this tournament," he said. "This is a stepping stone for the World Cup and all the group are enjoying being in each other's company. We are getting used to playing with each other and getting some cohesion."
- Sports & Recreation
- Michael McIlorum