SAM Wathen takes off for Australia on Friday - and his shooting career is set to soar.

He is already a senior international with Great Britain and has therefore played at a higher level than the English ranks he is to make his debut at in Melbourne.

But his first appearance for England is a rehearsal for next year's Commonwealth Games and they bring recognition and - fingers crossed - glory as well.

Wathen, 23, has represented Great Britain as a senior and junior.

'I shot for the British seniors when I was a junior. I suppose getting into the England team now seems to be the wrong way round,' he said.

The Melbourne event is the Commonwealth countries' method of testing out the Australian facilities a year in advance of the Games themselves. They'll know what to expect, but it does not mean Wathen is a certainty for the Games.

He said: 'I'm not pencilled in and there is a selection procedure to go through that is form based, but I do have an advantage being selected for this competition.

'Broadly speaking the competition and the shooters will be same next week as they will be in a year's time. I'm going for a medal, of course, but I'll definitely be looking for a top 10 place.

'The season is just kicking off. There are World Cup and World Championship shoots in Italy and Korea and the GB selection competitions start when we get back from Australia.

'English shooting is going well at the moment. We have strength in depth with a lot of good youngsters coming through.

'I took a few months off after shooting solidly for seven or eight years and started work, but I am getting back into it, finding my form a bit more now.

'I'm shooting twice a week, but ideally it should be four.'

Wathen, of Earle's Lane, Wincham, shoots double trap.

Two clays are fired from a trench about 10m in front of the shooters as they rotate between five pegs (positions). You get one shot at each clay and there are 25 pairs of clays in a round.

Wathen, a former pupil of St Nicholas RC High, will be one of just three England shooters in double trap.

Competition is over four days with eight more for practice and acclimatising.

Last year he shot for Great Britain in the European Championships and finished 15th of 50. The previous year he figured in a World Cup fixture in the Dominican Republic and is fifth in the senior rankings.

He said: 'I have got to improve. Last year was something of a transformation after finishing university and starting work.

'Now I am more consistent and more confident.'

His club shooting is at Cloudside, Congleton, and he is a project manager at Accentui, Radbroke Hall.