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Atkins keeps on proving doubters wrong

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George Riley George Riley | 22:30 UK time, Thursday, 26 April 2012

While Warrington Wolves centre Ryan Atkins is playing the best rugby of his life, the team that decided he was not good enough to play for them remain in real danger of going out of business.

Warrington host Bradford Bulls on Saturday afternoon in a Challenge Cup fifth round tie being televised on BBC One with Atkins admitting he has no idea how the Bulls will survive.

"I feel so sorry for the players and fans," said Atkins, who was allowed to leave Odsal to sign for Wakefield six years ago despite impressing through the Bradford academy.

"The fans buy the shirts and travel home and away and it is then those same fans who are asked for more money. That's bad.

"I have no idea how they will get the rest of the cash or whether they will survive, but it has at least got the right reaction from the players."

Atkins is a man who seems to thrive when he has a point to prove. He excelled for Wakefield in the immediate aftermath of his move from Bradford, and is one of the form centres in the division this season after being overlooked by England coach Steve McNamara.

So will it be special for the 26-year-old when he faces Bradford?
"No, not at all," he said. "That's been and gone.

"I used to play them with a point to prove to show them it was a bad decision to let me go. I wanted to show them what they had lost, but I've done that now."

Despite his fantastic club form, Atkins has been left out of England's elite training squad. Photo: Getty

But what about England, and the fact Steve McNamara omitted Atkins from his 32-man elite training squad?

Pundits reacted with disbelief and surprise, and Warrington fans, like Atkins himself, were angry.

McNamara has his reasons for not selecting him, which go back to the player's withdrawal from last year's squad (for personal reasons) rather than his form this year, but Atkins has vowed to prove McNamara wrong.

He feels he would not have been selected regardless of how well he was playing, because of a perceived lack of commitment last season.

"I am playing better rugby than I ever have in my life after a full pre-season," he said. "If Steve doesn't want to pick me for England that's his call and I won't let it bother me.

"I know I'm playing as well as any other English centre in Super League and I'm young enough to be available to play for my country under another coach after Steve."

Atkins loves the Challenge Cup. He turned in a scintillating two-try performance against Leeds to win the Cup for Warrington on his first Wembley visit two years ago.

"That is the most special memory of my career and I doubt it will be bettered," he said. "My mum was there, my best friend was there and it is a memory I will have with me until I die.

"Standing in the tunnel before the game, everything (coach) Tony Smith told me was forgotten. I was petrified in that tunnel and the noise when we came out was unlike anything I have ever experienced.

"Scoring the tries, celebrating in London with my friends afterwards, it was just amazing. It is an immense competition and winning at Wembley is the ultimate dream. Every game now we're getting closer to having that shot again."

Atkins knows from his days with Wakefield that the underdog is a dangerous beast. He sees Bradford in that mould and fears that, with every player in the shop window, and knowing each game could be their last in a Bulls shirt, they could cause a big shock.

There will be an extra member of the Atkins family watching too, thanks to the game's screening on terrestrial television.

"I punched the air when it was confirmed as the BBC game," he says. "It is a real buzz because it means my grandma can watch me.

"She is 76 and can't come to games anymore and she doesn't have satellite television, so this will be extra special."

Warrington v Bradford. Saturday 28 April, live on BBC One. Coverage starts at 1430 BST.

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