9th August 2019, 08:55 | englandrl
The England Knights squad came together in Leeds this week, allowing coach Paul Anderson to share with the players his preparation plans for the fixture against Jamaica at the Emerald Headingley Stadium on Sunday 20 October.
Anderson’s revised 37-man squad, announced in July, includes four players new to England’s senior performance set up: London Broncos duo Jordan Abdull and Rob Butler, Huddersfield Giants forward Oliver Wilson and Leeds Rhinos centre Harry Newman.
Abdull, a 23-year-old stand-off from Hull who has played for both of the city’s Super League clubs, has relished the responsibility he has been given since joining the London Broncos this season, while Butler is a 21-year-old prop from Kent who started playing Rugby League with the Medway Dragons community club, and is one of a number of youngsters from the south of England who have impressed with the Broncos in 2019.
Newman and Wilson were both members of the England Academy team that twice defeated the Australian Schoolboys last winter, and have this year established themselves in the first teams at their respective clubs.
“Harry and Oliver have moved quickly from the Academy squad to the Knights set-up, and that’s exactly how we want our development pathways to work”, explains Anderson, who will again be assisted by Paul Sculthorpe in his role as the RFL’s England Pathways Coach.
“It was a big shock when Paul Sculthorpe rang me to tell me I was in the Knights squad” says Wilson. “I was buzzing! It’s been a good experience so far and I’m learning a lot. 31 players have progressed from the Knights to the senior England set up in the last few years, so it shows that if you work hard you’ll get the opportunity.”
“Going into camp with the best players in the country at Academy level was a great experience” adds Newman, who has caught the eye this season with eight tries in 16 first team appearances. “Beating Australia was a really good way to end last season and a platform for me to kick on in this. If I get to play for England against Jamaica it will be a proud moment. It’s also a chance for us to see where we are at compared to a team that’s going to be playing in the 2021 World Cup.”
England Knights are playing in October as part of both countries’ countdown to the 2021 Rugby League World Cup. The Reggae Warriors continued their unlikely Rugby League story by beating the USA in Jacksonville last October to secure their first ever World Cup appearance.
It is a fixture that will work on two levels for Jamaica, providing high-quality international experience for their team at one of the host venues for RLWC2021, and also a platform for them to connect with the hundreds of thousands of British Jamaicans – the second-largest Jamaican population outside the island itself.
The Knights were re-established in 2018 as part of the Rugby Football League’s England Performance Unit, playing their first two matches since 2013 on a short tour to Papua New Guinea last autumn - and eight members of the first Knights Performance Squad that was announced in May 2018 have already earned promotion to the senior England set-up to make Test debuts.
Kevin Sinfield, the RFL’s Rugby Director who leads the England Performance Unit, said: “This is a fixture that works on so many levels, and I hope it will capture the imagination of Rugby League supporters and Jamaicans in Leeds, Yorkshire and well beyond.
“The Knights are an important part of the EPU as we build towards hosting the World Cup in 2021, and it was a priority to find them meaningful competition again this autumn after the unique experiences they gained in Papua New Guinea last year.
“The way the Jamaica team has developed over the last few years to reach the World Cup has already been a bit of a Rugby League fairytale and it’s great that the Knights can help them with their preparations for RLWC2021.”
Match tickets are now on sale at tickets.therhinos.co.uk
England Knights Performance Squad (all players listed with professional and community clubs):
Alex Foster (Castleford Tigers, Wetherby Bulldogs)
Mike McMeeken (Castleford Tigers, Staines Titans)
Greg Minikin (Castleford Tigers, Wetherby Bulldogs)
Matt Whitley (Catalans Dragons, Bold Miners)
Matt English (Huddersfield Giants, Stanley Rangers)
Kruise Leeming (Huddersfield Giants, Siddal)
Darnell McIntosh (Huddersfield Giants, Dewsbury Celtic)
Oliver Wilson (Huddersfield Giants, Greetland All Rounders)
Chris Atkin (Hull KR, Liverpool John Moores University)
Robbie Mulhern (Hull KR, Normanton Knights)
Josh Bowden (Hull FC, Hull Wyke)
Masimbaashe Matongo (Hull FC, West Hull)
Ash Handley (Leeds Rhinos, Oulton Raiders)
Harry Newman (Leeds Rhinos, Newsome Panthers)
Mikolaj Oledzki (Leeds Rhinos, Hunslet Warriors)
Cameron Smith (Leeds Rhinos, Lock Lane)
Liam Sutcliffe (Leeds Rhinos, Hunslet Warriors)
Jack Walker (Leeds Rhinos, East Leeds)
Jordan Abdull (London Broncos, Skirlaugh)
Rob Butler (London Broncos, Medway Dragons)
Niall Evalds (Salford Red Devils, Siddal)
Josh Jones (Salford Red Devils, Blackbrook Royals)
Jack Ashworth (St Helens, Rochdale Mayfield)
Matt Lees (St Helens, Rochdale Mayfield)
Danny Richardson (St Helens, Halton Farnworth Hornets)
James Batchelor (Wakefield Trinity, Crigglestone All Blacks)
Toby King (Warrington Wolves, Meltham All Blacks)
Tom Lineham (Warrington Wolves, York RUFC)
Dec Patton (Warrington Wolves, Latchford Giants)
Joe Philbin (Warrington Wolves, Culcheth Eagles)
Danny Walker (Warrington Wolves, Rylands Sharks)
Joe Bullock (Wigan Warriors, Blackpool Scorpions)
Tom Davies (Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Patricks)
Joe Greenwood (Wigan Warriors, Saddleworth Rangers)
Liam Marshall (Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Patricks)
Dom Manfredi (Wigan Warriors, Leigh Miners)
Sam Powell (Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Patricks)