5 days ago
Great Britain hooker Keiron Cunningham, who has won every domestic honour during his 12 years with St Helens, is delighted to be handed the chance to realise a long-held dream on the international stage.
The 28-year-old Cunningham has made just one Test appearance in three years due to a spate of injuries but he is eager to make his return after being named in the 24-strong Great Britain squad for the Gillette Tri-Nations Series against Australia and New Zealand.
Since making his debut as a raw 17-year-old in 1994, Cunningham has helped inspire Saints to four championships, four Challenge Cup final victories and a World Club Challenge success in 2001.
But the international career of the world-class hooker remains unfulfilled and he has only 11 caps to his name.
?What I really want to do is beat Australia in a Test match,? declared Cunningham, who is with the Great Britain squad spending four days at a warm-weather training camp in Spain.
?I?ve achieved a lot in my career. I?ve won the World Club championship, Challenge Cups and Grand Finals.
?You name it, I?ve won it, but I?ve never beaten the Aussies in a Test match. It?s something that I?m really looking forward to try and do and hopefully we?re going to have the personnel on the field to do that.?
Cunningham missed out on last year?s Tri-Nations after making the agonising decision to ignore Great Britain coach Brian Noble?s pleas for him to delay surgery on a knee injury until after the tournament.
?I was a bit disappointed about it last year,? he explained.
?I needed a micro-fracture on my knee, which is a three or four-month job. It wasn?t the best end to the year and I was a bit down anyway.
?When I found out I needed the surgery done, I spoke to Nobby (Brian Noble) and Jon Sharp (assistant coach) and they tried to talk me out of it.
?I was like, ?I need it doing, I need it doing?, because it was going to set me back another two months for this year. It was the right decision to have it done because I?ve had a really good year.?
Cunningham was a frustrated spectator last November as he watched Great Britain build up a head of steam, beating Australia and New Zealand twice during the round-robin stage, only to collapse in spectacular fashion against the Kangaroos in the final at Elland Road.
Darren Lockyer inspired Australia to produce arguably the best 40 minutes of rugby in recent memory to have the trophy firmly wrapped up by half-time en-route to an emphatic 44-4 victory.
Cunningham said: ?I was sat there watching it on television and thinking that maybe I could have made a bit of a difference.
?I would have loved to have been part of some of the great victories that we had and to just even be part of the final against the Aussies. I know we lost, but to be part of it would have been nice.?
After an outstanding season with St Helens, in which he played every match, and with his injuries firmly behind him, Cunningham is now firmly focused on international matters and is expected to play a key role in Great Britain?s bid go one step further than last year.
Now among the elder statesmen of the side, he has cited the emergence of a number of up-and-coming players as a cause for optimism ahead of Great Britain?s opener against New Zealand at Loftus Road, London, on Saturday, October 29.
?There are a lot of young kids coming through and I think the future of Great Britain is more or less safe because of the talent we?ve got coming through at all the clubs,? added Cunningham.
?To be part of the talent will be good for me.?
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Thanks to www.superleague.co.uk for this story.