Leeds Rhinos: Ward relishing his chance to shine with England

Stevie Ward.

Stevie Ward.

3
Have your say

SURPRISE SELECTION Stevie Ward says he is ready to make an impact for England – in only his fifth game this year.

The 22-year-old Leeds Rhinos forward is in contention to make his Test debut when England face France in Avignon this evening.

That would be a remarkable achievement following 12 months on the sidelines due to a knee injury suffered in September last year.

After four operations Ward returned to play in Rhinos’ final four games of the campaign and was then called into England’s train-on squad at the end of the Super-8s.

Originally left out of the 24-man squad for today and the Ladbrokes Four Nations which begins next week, he was drafted in this week after clubmate Brett Ferres was ruled out by a calf injury.

He has been named in coach Wayne Bennett’s 19-man squad for the French trip and insisted he can do a job at Test level, despite his lack of game time this year.

“Being in the train-on squad I was involved with the lads and I felt I had a good couple of sessions and I could offer something if selected,” he said.

“I am ready to train as hard as I can and put myself in the picture. I am fresh and ready to go and I’m confident I can contribute. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think I could do a job.”

Ward has time on his side, but stressed his current involvement is about more than gaining experience.

“Obviously I have come down to play,” he stated. “I want to feature and be involved in that side of things, but also being around some top athletes and world-class facilities is going to open my eyes.

“I am going to enjoy every minute of it and strive for more and more. It has been a tough year, but if I find myself in the Four Nations, playing in an England shirt it will be a nice way to cap it off.”

Ward had been preparing for a road trip in America with Rhinos team-mate Adam Cuthbertson when he received his England call.

He said: “It has all been a bit mad, but the main thing is I am here and I’m ready to throw myself in.

“It is brilliant, but it was definitely a surprise. I got a phone call at 8-8.30pm on Monday.

“I was ready to go to America on Tuesday so it was a massive surprise, but a nice one and an opportunity I had to take.”

Of the cancelled holiday, he insisted: “I’ve no regrets.

“The USA is always going to be there. If you get a chance to play for England and be involved in a tournament like this, especially with the World Cup coming up next year, you’re going to take it.

“Cuthbo has been brilliant. I thought he’d have been a bit gutted, but he said it’s the chance of a lifetime to play for your country and he supports it totally.”

Of Ferres, Ward said: “I spoke to him and he’s extremely gutted.

“He has been a massive player for England over the last couple of years and we’d all want him to be out there.

“It’s a shame my selection had to come in place of him, but he will be back.”

Meanwhile, Rhinos’ transfer-listed full-back Zak Hardaker is set to join Huddersfield Giants after a possible move to Castleford Tigers fell through.

Tigers have confirmed their squad for next season is complete.

Leeds Rhinos' Jack Walker, right, celebrates scoring his third try with Sam Hallas.

Leeds Rhinos: It’s a Walk’ in the park for Leeds’ teen ace Jack