'I thought it was somebody having me on' - Leeds Rhinos star Mikolaj Oledzki's reaction to call-up from England coach Shaun Wane

When Shaun Wane rang to invite Mikolaj Oledzki to England’s first training session of World Cup year, the Leeds Rhinos front-rower thought it was a wind-up.

Tuesday, 13th April 2021, 5:00 pm

Oledzki and clubmate Kruise Leeming were additions to a 35-man squad named by the England boss last week.

The players, minus those who are injured or based in Australia, met in Leeds yesterday and Oledzki described last Thursday’s chat with Wane as “one of the best phone calls I've had in my rugby career”.

Already having played for England at academy and Knights level, he said: “It was a pretty nice surprise.

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Mik Oledzki. Picture by Tony Johnson.

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“To be honest, I couldn't believe it - I thought it was somebody having me on.

"I'm really grateful for the opportunity Shaun gave me to come and be involved in the team.

"I feel like I've been rewarded for putting all the effort in to be a better player this year."

Oledzki responded to his promotion with a storming performance in Leeds’ narrow Betfred Challenge Cup loss at St Helens two days later.

"Rich [Agar, Rhinos’ coach] said after the Saints game 'I'll get Shaun Wane to ring you before every game',” Oledzki joked.

"Getting rewarded for playing well or doing the little stuff right motivates you to keep putting the extra effort in.

"Playing Saints on Saturday, I knew myself I was due a good performance because I don't think I've been playing 100 per cent at my best in the last two weeks.

“It was important we defended the trophy like champions.

"It was disappointing not to come out on the winning side, but it was nice for me to get a good performance in and then I can build on that for the next few weeks."

As well as Oledzki and Leeming, Huddersfield Giants’ Matty English and Jake Wardle also received a late invite to England training.

"I don't know the reason,” Oledzki said of his call up.

“I'd like to think that I'm here because I deserve it because of the amount of work I put in.

"Now I'm here, I'm going to take the opportunity to make the most of it and make sure I stay in this team and get a place.

“My ambition and target for this year was to play my best rugby and be consistently good every week.

“I knew, if I enjoy my rugby and play well, the rewards will come.

"My targets don't really change, it's just extra motivation, not that I needed it, but extra incentive to play well and be consistently good."

Oledzki was born in Poland and didn’t pick up a rugby ball until he was 13 or 14, but has made incredible progress since then.

"I guess you have to enjoy the journey, you never know where it's going to take you,” he reflected.

“I am quite fortunate that in the space of seven or eight years it has taken me this far.

“I'm very grateful, but like to think it's come from hard work and commitment from myself to be the best I can be.

“Every time I get an opportunity I make the most of it. "

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