England v Combined Nations All Stars: Leeds Rhinos' Mikolaj Oledzki ready to stake World Cup claim
Rising star Mikolaj Oledzki has vowed to “give everything I’ve got” for England against Combined Nations All Stars on Friday night.
Oledzki has played for England at youth, academy and Knights level and is on the verge of his Test debut, just four years after his first appearance for Leeds Rhinos.
He trained with the elite squad earlier this year and is “over the moon” to get an opportunity to impress coach Shaun Wane, four months before the start of England’s World Cup campaign.
“Playing well consistently was my goal for this year, playing for Leeds,” Oledzki, who will become the first Polish-born player capped by England, said.
“But I was hoping if I was able to achieve that, things would fall into place.
“I have got a massive opportunity [tonight] and it’s important I grab it with both hands and give it everything I’ve got.”
Oledzki didn’t begin playing rugby league until his mid-teens and has made rapid progress to become one of Betfred Super League’s most in-form forwards.
“We haven’t played for nearly four weeks so I wasn’t expecting a phone call,” he admitted.
“When I did get it, it was a very nice surprise.
“I am over the moon to be involved and I am going to do everythingI can to have the best game possible and hopefully show Shaun I can play well at that level.”
Oledzki insisted he wasn’t thinking about the World Cup when the season began, but it is now beginning to seem like a realistic goal.
“At the start of the year I was just trying to concentrate on my personal development and get the small things right,” he added.
“Now, being picked in the squad has made me want even more to be involved in that team at the end of the year.
“It is going to be an exciting second half of the season and I’m excited to see what comes after it.”
Leeds will have two front-rowers on duty at Warrington, with Matt Prior having been named co-captain of the All Stars.
He has pledged to stay well away from Oledzki, whose response to that was “good!”
The youngster said: “It has been massive for my development to have Matty and Zane [Tetevano] around me.
“They are both world class players and I have learned loads from them.
“They always push me to be better, on the field and off it.
“They are great mentors to have around me in the middle of the pitch.
“It makes it easier to play well when I get to start with them every weekend.
“They are both great blokes too.”
Training with England has been just as valuable, Oledzki feels.
“It is awesome, I have loved every minute of it,” he said.
“It is great to be around the best players in the comp’ and get to see the things they do and try to pick things up as well.
“There’s always something new to learn.”
Along with England teammates Luke Gale and Ash Handley, plus Prior and Kruise Leeming, who is also in the All Stars squad, Oledzki could have to back up when Rhinos travel to Salford Red Devils on Sunday.
He said: “I am quite fortunate I am still fairly young, I am only 22.
“If the team needs us to back up, I’ll put my hand up.
“We need to get a few wins under our belt and start building some momentum and getting up the ladder in Super League.
“If we need to, we will double up, but Friday’s game is my main priority at the moment and I want to have my best game then.”
Support the YEP and become a subscriber today. Enjoy unlimited access to local news and the latest on Leeds United, With a digital subscription, you see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Click here to subscribe.