Sunday afternoon’s historic first test between England and Tonga will be extra special for Tommy Makinson.
The St Helens winger will walk out at his home ground, the Totally Wicked Stadium, in an England shirt for the very first time after being named in Shaun Wane’s 19-man squad.
“It’s something I’ve never done before,” 2018 golden boot winner, Makinson, explained.
“To walk out at my home club in the England jersey is going to mean a lot to me. I just can’t wait.
“Hopefully we’ll have a lot of people there and half the town there – hopefully St Helens can back us, get behind the country and wish us well against Tonga.”
Makinson isn’t the only player from St Helens set to take the field at their home ground on Sunday. His club and country teammate, Jack Welsby, will also line up for England - and as captain.
Welsby was this week named England skipper after George Williams was ruled out of the first two tests through suspension. He will become the youngest ever England captain when he leads the side out in St Helens on Sunday.
“Jack’s a good mate of mine and a teammate at St Helens,” said Makinson.
“It’s been coming – I feel like his performances over the last two, three, four years, we’ve all seen what he can do. He’s a back-to-back Man of Steel candidate and all the accolades have come his way. He’s led from the front this year for St Helens and no doubt he’s going to do that in these three matches.
“He’s pretty chilled. He’s a good captain, we’ve all seen it in him. He’s not very vocal but when something needs to be said he’ll say it. He’s honest, hardworking and more than anything he’s a good bloke - and that’s why everyone respects him. We’re looking forward to lining up behind him and taking the field with him on Sunday.”
Although Welsby is in the infancy of his England career, Makinson is one of the more senior players in Shaun Wane’s squad.
And the experienced winger is making sure he passes on as much guidance and wisdom to the younger players in camp ahead of taking to the field together for the first time this weekend.
“There’s a few younger lads knocking around. It’s good to give others advice and pass on what you know – it’s enjoyable.
“You just take it in your stride. It’s something we’ve had in the past off James Graham, Sam Burgess, Gaz Widdop - people like that I remember when I first came in. It’s just your turn now.
“This jersey, there’s so many that have worn it before you and now it’s your turn. You’ve just got to pass on everything you know to the younger lads and build into these big games because every one is a massive game and they don’t come bigger than playing Tonga.”
Whilst Makinson may not be overly familiar with most of the Tongan squad who ply their trade in the NRL, he knows the coaching staff better than most.
Former Saints boss Kristian Woolf will return to the Totally Wicked Stadium as Tongan head coach on Sunday, alongside the current Saints coach and his assistant, Paul Wellens.
“When Wello [Paul Wellens] told us he was going into camp with them I was happy for him. He’s a great coach and no doubt he’ll learn a lot from Kristian. They’re a great team and it’ll be a great test, but as soon as I heard about you forget about it.
“There’s bigger things going on – you’ve got to take to the field and give it all for this badge. For me, that’s over anything, just overriding pride and excitement.”
And when the action gets underway on Sunday afternoon, there will be no love lost between Makinson and his former - and current - club coach.
“Every time you pull an international jersey on it feels like do or die. You don’t know if it will be your last – we’ve got some many great players here, you’ve got to perform. That’s not by over-pressuring yourself – that’s just what you do as an international player. You’ve got to perform, that’s why you’re in the shirt.
“Tonga will be playing to win and England are playing to win. You don’t care about it being three games, you just hit this one running and hopefully we can go one nil up.”