RUGBY LEAGUE’S QUALITY STREET GANG – KEN GILL (PT4)

Part 4 – HIS INTERNATIONAL PLAYING CAREER

With all the accolades of praise, which came his way, both from fans, fellow players, and the sporting media, it was of no great surprise to anyone that, in 1974, Ken Gill was selected to play for Gt Britain in two test matches against France.

“When I got the call to inform me I had been selected for the international team I was just so made up, and everybody around me was just as delighted for me.  The first match was away in Grenoble, where we won, 24-5, and the return game was at Central Park, Wigan, which we also won, 29-0.

“St Helens centre, John Walsh, had been made captain, but just before we went out onto the field, at Wigan, he took off his captain’s armband and gave it to me, with the instruction for me to take over the captaincy, which was quite a shock so close to the kick off, but an incredibly gallant gesture.”

March 1975 saw the start of the World Cup, with fixtures spread throughout the calendar year, thereby overlapping two seasons, and lasting until mid-November.  Instead of a final, the winners were determined on a league basis, and for this competition Ken was a part of the England squad which was in operation rather than the full GB side.

Countries played one another on a home and away basis, and so he was required for a close season trip to Sydney to face Australia.

“When we got there, I found myself in competition with Roger Milward for the stand-off half position, but, at the outset it was he who was being selected, so, after our being beaten in the first Test Match I went to the coach, Reg Parker, to find out why I wasn’t being selected.  The outcome was that Roger was moved to the wing and I took over at half back, and we promptly won the second one, 16-11.

Indeed, it was Kenny who scored the winning try going over between the posts with a set move direct from a scrum, fifteen metres out from the Australian line, involving scrum half, Stevie Nash, and this will have helped secure his continued selection for the third test, and beyond.  Then, when they moved on to New Zealand, he hit the headlines again by crossing for a hat-trick of tries.

“I went on to return again in 1977, but playing at such a high level as test rugby the physicality was so great in general, and I got singled out for extra special attention in this direction, so much so that I finished possibly earlier than I otherwise would have done.”

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