19th June 2019, 15:24 | great_britain

James Roby looks ahead to Great Britain return

James Roby looks ahead to Great Britain return

JAMES Roby has the shirts in a box and the memories in his mind – now it is time to make more in a Great Britain strip.

The St Helens hooker looks increasingly certain to make the Lions’ tour to New Zealand and Papua New Guinea in the Autumn.

Despite the 12-year gap between matches, Roby has pulled on the famed kit – the latest version of which will be unveiled by suppliers Hummel next month – before.

In 2006, the then youngster was an interchange player, spelling with the late Terry Newton on a famous night in Sydney when the Kangaroos were beaten 23-12.

Now a veteran, but still just as good, he is determined to soak up every moment of being part of the Great Britain set up once again, if coach Wayne Bennett picks him when the final tour party is released on October 14, two days after the Super League Grand Final. 

“That week in 2006 was a big week for us,” recalled Roby. “I was one of the young lads in the Great Britain set up back then and we’d had a bit of a hammering from the Aussie press leading up to that game.

“To go there and win it was fantastic. It was a real moment for us and it doesn’t happen that often, does it?

“Great Britain beating the Aussies in their own back yard was a great night for us and I’ve fond memories of that tour.

“I’ve got all the shirts in boxes and they’re all still there. I don’t know what I pan to do with them. Maybe get some of them framed but the Great Britain jerseys are fantastic. 

“That mix of colours and the golden lion, it’s brilliant.

“It’s great to have it back. Growing up, my memories were of watching Great Britain and my idols played for Great Britain.

“There have been many classic matches, particularly against Australia, so I’m really pleased that the side is back. 

“It’s such an iconic jersey. I’ve been lucky enough to wear it in the past and I’ll be doing everything I can to try and wear it again.”

Since Great Britain last played in 2007 – featuring a young Sam Burgess – England have established themselves as genuine contenders on the world stage.

But for an ankle tap in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup final, it is fair to say they could be world champions.

However, bringing the Lions back adds something extra – players from Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

And Roby admits its presence has been missed, adding: “The Great Britain brand is so powerful and so iconic. There are generations that have grown up watching that. 

“When it changed to England, it was a bit different but it was nothing to do with us as players. 

“No matter whether it’s England or Great Britain, it’s still the highest honour you can get but it’s great to revitalise it. 

“Having the Welsh, Irish and Scottish lads involved in the mix adds another level. There are a few lads who are eligible for other countries who will definitely be in the mix.

“And they’ll be doing everything they can to be selected by Wayne. It increases the quality of the product.”

Roby does not have to look far to find non-England players who can make the cut. 

Three of his clubmates, Wales’ Morgan Knowles and Regan Grace and Scotland’s Lachlan Coote, are all in the reckoning.

He said: “Morgan, Regan and Lachlan can definitely step up for Great Britain. They’ve been fantastic for us and I’d back them to definitely make the grade.

“Lachlan has been fantastic for us this year and there’s not been much banter over him being Scottish either.

“As long as he’s playing well for St Helens, I’m happy to not give him any either.”

Great Britain’s tour starts on October 26 with a Test against Tonga in Hamilton, New Zealand and if the last time he faced the Pacific island is anything to go by, it will be special.

Roby featured in England’s World Cup semi-final win in Auckland, which was basically 30,000 Tongans against a couple of hundred Brits. 

Hymns were sung, everyone wore red, there were even couple’s who travelled to Mount Smart stadium straight from their wedding ceremony. Auckland sold out of Tongan flags. 

And Roby cannot wait to maybe sample a repeat later this year.

He said: “Tonga was an incredible atmosphere, the best I’ve ever played in. They didn’t stop singing from minute one until the end of the game. 

“We won in the end and some people may have thought it was a bit contentious but the way the fans greeted us as we exited the stadium – they took us on to our bus if you like.

“They were really great, friendly people and it was a great experience for me to play in.”