Leeds Rhinos ace Shannon Lacey can't wait to make her England debut
WHEN SHE pulls on an England jersey for the first time, Leeds Rhinos forward Shannon Lacey’s international debut will have come both earlier and later than expected.
Lacey, 19, did not anticipate being part of England’s plans this season, but – having been called up for the inaugural World Cup Nines in Sydney – had to pull out due to a head injury suffered during Rhinos’ Betfred Women’s Super League semi-final win at St Helens.
Agonisingly, she missed Rhinos’ Grand Final victory over Castleford Tigers as well as the Nines tour which began the following day, but is now in camp preparing for the two-Test series against Papua New Guinea which begins on Saturday.
“I was devastated to miss out on both,” Lacey – a product of the Stanningley community club – said of last month’s setbacks.
“I have got through all the return to play tests and it is my first time with England so I am really excited and looking forward to it and to spending three weeks in camp.”
England flew to Brisbane a week ago to fine-tune preparations before the first Test in Garoka.
They meet PNG again seven days later at Port Moresby as the first part of a double-header with Great Britain Lions’ Test against the south Pacific side and the entire squad are likely to feature at some stage over the two games.
England cruised to a 25-4 win over PNG in the opening match of the Nines, but Lacey reckons the hosts – the only country when rugby league is the national sport – will make life harder over the next two weekends.
“We know they’ve got the ability to play with the ball,” she warned.
“In the Nines they offloaded quite well.
“They will be really challenging games, but it’s a test which we want to build towards the 2021 World Cup.
“We need to step it up.”
Lacey is one of five Leeds players in the tour squad.
She admitted the appointment of Rhinos men’s player and women’s team boss Adam Cuthbertson – who has masterminded four trophy wins over the past two seasons – as England’s assistant-coach was a boost for her personally.
“Having Cuthbo on the coaching staff is great,” she said.
“He knows how I play and it’s good to have him there for the support.”
England are building towards the next World Cup and Lacey is likely to be a key member of England’s squad for the home tournament which begins in 24 months’ time.
“With it being over here, it is a chance to represent your country on home ground and that’s something I’ve always dreamed about,” she said.
Before that, a big year for Leeds in 2020 is also on the agenda. Lacey admitted: “I wasn’t expecting a call up for England this season, but Leeds have had a really good year, doing the double. Next year we’ll be looking to push on and hopefully win the treble.”