RUGBY : Chris Bridge will attempt to display the talent first spotted by England coach Tony Smith nine years ago when he makes his full debut on Saturday.
Chris Bridge will attempt to display the talent first spotted by England coach Tony Smith nine years ago when he makes his full debut on Saturday.
The 25-year-old Warrington centre will start in the Gillette Four Nations clash against New Zealand at Huddersfield’s Galpharm Stadium, where he first came to the attention of his Wolves and England boss in Huddersfield’s academy in 2000.
“He was probably the best talent within the club at that early age,” recalled Smith. “He was on contract but we lost him because we got relegated and Bradford took him off us. We realised at that stage he was probably the hottest talent around.”
He added: “He probably hasn’t lived up to some of that. He showed glimpses throughout his career but he’s had some injuries and other issues.”
The other issues were off-field problems that barred his progress at Bradford and briefly surfaced earlier this year when he was arrested for an incident outside a nightclub in Warrington.
Bridge and team-mate Ben Harrison were fined by the club but Smith is convinced his England player is a reformed character.
“He made a little error,” he said. “He shouldn’t have been out at that time of night.
“As far as handling the incident went, he got a lot of plaudits from the police. He was well and truly innocent, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“Some people are prone to go off the rails from time to time but he has shown no sign of that in recent times and seems to be making a commitment to his rugby league.
“And, while ever he does that, he’s got a big future. I’ve seen much more maturity even since he’s been involved with England.”