03 November 2023

Elliott Whitehead makes England’s Test at Headingley his final international

03 November 2023

Elliott Whitehead will retire from international rugby league following England’s final Test match with Tonga on Saturday.

Bradford-born Whitehead will call time on his England days after his 27th and final cap at Headingley on Saturday, after he decided to extend his international career following last year’s World Cup semi-final heartbreak.

The 34-year-old will now bow out on positive terms no matter the result on Saturday, after England already sealed a series victory over Tonga, going 2-0 up in the three-match series with a 14-4 win at Huddersfield last week.

Whitehead thinks now is the right time to step aside and let England look to the future.

He said: “It had to come to an end at some point and I wanted it on my terms so after winning that series I thought it was time.

“I’ve probably come to that age now, I’ll probably be done with my whole career next year with Canberra so I just thought it was the right time.

“Good timing for me, I’ll be 35 come next year and it’s time to probably start building for the World Cup so stepping aside gives a chance for one of the young kids to step up and take the opportunity.

“England have to move, I have to move on and let the young kids come through and take England forward.”

Whitehead was ready to hang up his boots on the international stage last year but those plans were put on ice after England were beaten by Samoa in the World Cup semi-final.

I just thought it was the right time

After making his debut in 2014 and playing in two World Cup finals, Whitehead now feels content walking away from the side.

He added: “I owed it to the coach, we did not accomplish what we wanted to accomplish last year and he (Shaun Wane) is a great man, a great coach and a great leader and he’s got a good set of young boys mixed with some older boys that are going to go through to the World Cup.

“I just thought coming back and helping him win this Test series is good for him as well myself.

“If we got to the World Cup final and pushed Australia I probably would have called it a day then but after having such a good camp last year with Wane and to play under him again I thought I’d give it one more shot.”

Whitehead started his career with Bradford before moving to the Catalan Dragons and later joined NRL side Canberra Raiders ahead of the 2016 season.

Despite walking away from the the Test arena, Whitehead intends to play one more season at club level.

He continued: “Back when I was 18 I never thought I would play Super League, never mind NRL, play games for England and Great Britain.

“I’ve won Test series’ with England and the World Cup final before pulling up short there, I would have liked to win that but I feel like I’ve had a good international career.

“I’m proud of my achievements in rugby league altogether. As a young kid at 17 or 18 when Bradford knocked me back I probably wouldn’t think I’d be where I’m sat today so I’m proud of obviously going over to the NRL and I’m up to nearly 200 games.

“But I’ve got another year at Raiders where I’ll be doing my best to win the Premiership that everyone wants to win.”

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