FOLLOWING his controversial move from Hull FC, new Castleford Tigers signing Liam Watts insists he has no “off-field” issues - and has spoken to England team manager Jamie Peacock about adapting his game to finally earn international recognition.
Castleford have paid a six-figure fee for the prop after he was released by their Super League rivals this week, Hull coach Lee Radford saying the decision was down to a “discipline issue” rather than football matters.
Radford added he hopes the 27-year-old player - who had won back-to-back Challenge Cups with Hull since joining from Hull KR in 2012 - “can find some consistency off the field to benefit his career in the future.”
Asked today about what his former coach was referring to, Watts - currently serving a three-game ban - said: “It is just comments that have been made and nobody knows otherwise.
“Go and ask him what he thinks my off-field issues are, but between me and you guys there’s no off-field issues.
“It’s just rugby league at the end of the day and that’s how things happen. “Obviously the club thought it was best and when I was spoken to I agreed and we’ve not left on bad terms. There’s none of that at all.
“There’s still things to be done and for my own personal career I think I have the chance of a few honours here and trying to get in that England squad at the end of the year.
“Under Daryl (Powell) I think I’ve got a really good chance of doing that.”
Castleford coach Powell has a habit of bringing the best out of players and led his side to their first-ever League Leaders Shield and Grand Final last year.
A red-card for a senseless headbutt in his last game for Hull, though, was Watts’ fourth dismissal in less than 12 months.
Admittedly, one of his red cards last season was deemed harsh but the uncapped player - deemed by many to be unlucky not to be in England contention - knows he must change his ways to fulfil his potential.
He said: “Personally I have had a few chats about this and I think the game has got to a stage now where it’s changing and all that little niggly stuff…
“But that’s how I’ve always played and if you have got an opposition in front of you, if you can get underneath their skin and disrupt them as much as possible, then you’ve got a great chance of winning the game.
“Obviously the RFL for whatever reasons are picking up on stuff now that never even got looked at two or three years ago.
“That is me having to adapt again. I had a chat with Jamie Peacock about it and just having to adapt my game and do all the things necessary to give me the best possible chance of getting in that England team at the end of the year.”
Former England captain Peacock, one of the great props of the modern era, is now head of rugby at Hull KR and also on Wayne Bennett’s England staff.
“After what happened on that Friday (red card v Warrington) it was just a courtesy call, everybody’s thinking about you and don’t throw your head into the bushes more or less,” explained Watts.
“Keep your head held high, but just think about how the game’s adapting and changing. They want a more fluent game and they are picking up on stuff now that’s never been picked up on before.
“Unfortunately I’ve been picked up on a few occasions in the last 12 months. The game’s changing and you’ve either got to change with it or keep picking up bans like I’ve been doing.
“It’s time I’ve got to start playing a bit smarter.
“It is everybody in general, there’s players all over the board that have got a bit of stuff in them. You see how Sam Tomkins plays and he tries his best to get under [the skin of] any opposition.
“That’s just how it is. Some of my stuff’s a bit blatant, when you are 6ft 4 you stand out a bit more than a full-back. It’s just one of those things.
“We are all here to learn and I am willing to learn as much as I can.”