England international Gareth Widdop says the stand alone representative weekend is vital for the heath of international rugby league.

English pivot Gareth Widdop says the standalone representative weekend is vital to foster the growth of international rugby league.

The NRL copped plenty of criticism for stopping the premiership for one round as Australia played New Zealand, NSW and Queensland Under 20s met, Fiji clashed with Samoa, and City battled Country last weekend.

But St George Illawarra five-eighth Widdop said the NRL should be doing all it can to promote the game at all levels.

“Being English it is great to watch those players go around,” Widdop said.

“Playing for your country is the highest honour and I think anyone would want to do that any day of the week.

“I think it is a good concept and I hope they keep it going.

“Rep footy is the pinnacle, you play footy to win your premierships but then you want to play at the next level and you have Origin and internationals.

“That is what you want to do, you want to play for your country, it can’t take a backseat.

“You have to keep playing it every year, and keep it on the agenda.

England suffered a last minute loss to the Kiwis in last year’s World Cup semi-final and Widdop said it was vital they continued to have international competition every year.

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary, who is on the NRL Competition Committee, said: “The competition over there isn’t strong and they don’t have the international Test in the middle so if the competition is on at the end of every year I think it is better for England.

“Year after year you get more time together, rather than have a year and not play for another two years, it is very hard to get back together,

“For England as a team I think it is great every year there is some kind of competition”