JOE Batchelor hopes to serve up an England debut after once serving rugby league players as a waiter at Frankie and Benny’s.
And if anything, trying to force his way into Shaun Wane’s line-up against the Combined Nations All Stars is more relaxing than the holiday to Centerparcs he had lined up with St Helens team-mate Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook.
Back rower Batchelor made the 20-man squad after a string of stellar displays, but he revealed when he got the call on Sunday evening, he was not sure whether it was his dentist or not!
That conversation with Wane led to him shelving plans to head to Cumbria for five days, girlfriend Beth Day has gone with McCarthy-Scarsbrook and his family.
And as he looked around the Wigan-based camp, working in the restaurant branch at Leeds’ White Rose centre seemed a million miles away.
Some skills have crossed over, though. Dealing with opponents is a bit like facing an angry chef.
“Five years ago I was serving players at Frankie and Benny’s,” recalled Batchelor, who reckons he may have had a couple of his new international colleagues at a table. “It’s mental.
“Being with England is the polar opposite to where I was. Even training full time is a million miles away.
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“And dealing with opponents is a bit like dealing with the chefs, who were more intense than the customers. You had to make sure you were on your A game or they’d tell you.
“Any time it was busy and they were rushed off their feet, if you made a mistake they had to create a backlog to fix your mistake. You had to look after yourself.
“I actually had Centerparcs booked, so my missus has gone up with Louie’s family. She got over any disappointment I wasn’t going quickly, though, as she was made up for me.
“And I think this camp may be a lot less stressful than going away with Louie! It will be a lot more relaxing here I reckon!”
Now he is in the England reckoning, Batchelor is determined to make the most of his week in camp.
The 27-year-old has come right from the amateur game at Dewsbury Celtic, through League One at Coventry Bears and York City Knights to being a Super League champion at Saints.
But the back rower did not have England really on his agenda, just keeping hold of his club shirt was enough.
He added: “Anyone playing Super League who qualifies wants to play for England, so to be recognised in any form is massive.
“I’ve got to be playing well for Saints to even be considered. I want to play for England but I was more focused on keeping my St Helens shirt.
“It doesn’t really feel real and probably won’t sink in for a couple of days. It was a whirlwind after being told I was called up.
“I was actually expecting my dentist to call, so I wasn’t sure if it was them or not – it was Shaun on the other end!
“But you never know as you can’t trust any rugby lads. I checked his number on WhatsApp after though and it had his photo alongside it.
“That’s when I knew it was 100 per cent genuine and I listened to a couple of podcasts with Shaun, so I have a rough idea of what he’s like.”
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