LEEDS RHINOS forward Stevie Ward says he is “learning and growing” as part of England’s Ladbrokes Four Nations squad, despite having to wait for his debut.
Ward was called into the England set-up last month after clubmate Brett Ferres withdrew due to injury.
The back-rower – who turns 23 next week – played only four games for Leeds this year after overcoming a serious knee injury and has not featured in any of England’s three autumn internationals and was not named in the squad to face Australia tomorrow.
He is the only member of the squad yet to pull on the red and white jersey, but insisted every moment in the camp has been worthwhile.
“It has been really good,” enthused Ward. “I had been hoping to play and figure somehow, but haven’t had the chance.
“But I am learning and growing and doing everything I can.
“It is really good to see what it takes to make the next jump and I am really grateful to be in this position. I am really happy to be learning from these guys, there is always somebody you can learn from.”
Ward had been due to begin a holiday in America the day after he linked up with England.
He insisted he has “no regrets” about the change of plan. “I had to take an opportunity like this,” he stressed. “Whether I play or not, it is a life experience.
“If I had gone to America I would always have wondered what if?
“There’s always chance for another holiday. This is what really matters, it is what I play rugby for.”
Ward reckons having mixed with different players and coaches will prove valuable when he returns to pre-season training with Leeds in the new year.
“It is good to get a taste of a different set-up,” he said.
“I have been at Leeds a few years now and it is good to get across to England and meet some of the boys we do battle against.
“In the England coaching set-up there’s Wayne Bennett and people like Paul Sculthorpe, Paul Anderson and Paul Wellens and JP [Jamie Peacock] is team manager.
“It is affluent with talented people.”
Despite not playing, Ward has been keeping busy.
“I’ve been doing all the training and supporting the boys on the field,” he said.
“Whatever the boys need tactically, I’ve tried to do that for them. I’ve also had some pretty heavy conditioning sessions and weight sessions, so I’ve not been standing around doing nothing – I’ve been getting involved wherever I can.”
England play their final round-robin game tomorrow when they face Australia at London’s Olympic Stadium.
They lost their opening tie to New Zealand before an unconvincing victory over Scotland last weekend and Ward described the mood in the camp as “pretty chilled out”. He said: “We know where we went wrong [against Scotland]. We know we need to be better than that. It is easy for me to say, not playing, but the boys were disappointed and they are ready to challenge Australia.”