JAMES Roby has pushed past some serious competition at number nine to book his place on the plane to Australia with the England World Cup squad – but won’t be happy to play understudy when the tournament starts.

The Saints hooker returns to the squad for the first time since 2015, after being preferred to Warrington’s Daryl Clark, Castleford’s Paul McShane and Hull’s Danny Houghton in Wayne Bennett’s 24-man squad.

And although Canberra Raiders Josh Hodgson has held the starting spot, Roby is not travelling 10,000 miles to be a spectator.

Roby said: “I want to play, but so does every lad in the squad.

“Wayne will decide who he wants to go with, but I will be doing everything I can to show him my best to stake my claim.

“Josh Hodgson is playing very well in the NRL and has been involved in the times when I have missed out.”

Roby became a permanent fixture in the national team after making his debut 11 years ago - and has happy memories of being in the last Great Britain team to beat Australia in 2006.

And he is keen to take what could be his last chance of playing against the Kangaroos in Australia with both hands when the sides lock horns in the opening game in Melbourne on 27 October.

Roby said: “We are all looking forward to that game.

“Hopefully we can put up a performance and if we can get off to a winning start that would be tremendous, not just to get one over them but to boost us in the group standings and moving into the quarters.”

After a year or so out, Roby was pleased to get the nod, but it was never really his main focus this year.

But his form has been a by-product of what he has done in the red vee.

“I am happy to be back involved.

“I missed the mid-season game and the Four Nations last year so I have kind of had a bit of time off.

“It was never set as my goal, I just wanted to play as best as I could for St Helens.

“I am happy with the way I have been going week on week, during the high pressure games in the Super 8s.

“I am sure that has contributed to me being selected.

“There is a lot of comp for places in the squad at nine and that makes selection a little bit sweeter.

“It spurs me on top do well in the World Cup.”

Some players never get back into the international reckoning once they give up or lose their spot.

In that sense Roby feels doubly pleased, but seemed to always be relaxed about the situation.

“I am lucky enough to have been involved in so many England games that I could take that break, but I am happy to get back.

“Body wise I am fine with no injuries.

“I always thought I could carry on for England, do what I can do at St Helens and hopefully get back in contention.

“There is a lot of competition at nine and I am aware of that.

“I love playing for England and want to play for England and when I didn’t get selected I did not get downhearted by it and never gave up.

“I played in the last World Cup over there and it is an absolutely massive event.

“You have got to take these opportunities while you can. This may be my last chance to tour in Australia and I am going to take it.”

He believes Saints' younger tourists - from across the home nations - will benefit from the experience.

He said: "It is a totally different environment – intense games with a massive stadium.

"But all the build up is different too. As players we train and play the game as normal, but you see how big the game is over there.

"It is quite a bit different to what we some of the players are used to.

“I think going on tour will give good experience to the younger players. Experiencing new places too.

“I remember my first tour in 2006 and still have fond memories of that. It will be the same for Al and Mark Percival. That can only help develop.”

One player who is used to the surroundings Down Under is Roby’s former Blackbrook and Saints front row teammate James Graham, who has played NRL since 2012.

“Jammer texted me on Monday night. I have not seen him for a while – we have played together since we were small boys.

“It will be great to team up with him again. He has gone over and done well for himself,” he said.