Leeds Rhinos' Harry Newman relishing England's Headingley Test v Tonga, makes 'improve again' pledge
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Newman made his England debut in the 22-18 win over Tonga two weeks ago and featured against in last weekend’s 14-4 victory which sealed the series ahead of Saturday’s third and final Test at Leeds’ AMT Headingley Rugby Stadium.
Despite not yet having a try scoring opportunity, Newman has had a strong series so far, but believes his best rugby is still in front of him. The 23-year-old centre, who has one year left on his Rhinos contract said: “It [the Test series] has gone well, but I know I've still got things I can work on.
“I'm 23 and it has taken a long time to get to this point. I've had some tough times, but I've stuck at it and that's something I'll always do. We want to win that game this weekend and with a full pre-season behind me, hopefully I can improve again.”
Newman had been on the verge of international recognition since 2020, only for injuries - including a broken leg and serious hamstring problems - to delay his debut. That made his eventual call up “the proudest moment of my life”, he said.
“When Waney [England coach Shaun Wane] rang me and told me I was in, I was ecstatic. It wasn't expected and I wasn't at my best this season. I struggled with injuries, so to get the call and then play in that first Test, I didn't know what to say. They brought our families in and I got my first cap off my mum and dad, it's been really special. I'm enjoying every minute of it.”
Newman reckons having worked with different players and coaches will help him when he returns to Leeds in pre-season. He stressed: “I understood what Shaun wanted from me straight away. He has always been very direct. Every player knows what Shaun wants and it has been enjoyable to be working in a different environment. I know I've got a lot more in me and hopefully that will come.
“I'm a long way off what I want to do, but it has been great to work under Shaun. I think I've delivered what he's wanted from me to a decent level, but I know I need to step that up again.”
After well-publicised concerns about Newman’s on-field behaviour before the series, he has not put a foot wrong in the Test matches so far. That is something Wane has acknowledged and the Leeds man said: “I think the way I've carried myself and the discipline has been great.
“There's a few things I can fix up in the defensive side of my game, but it's about doing it in every single minute. Being around the boys and guys like George Williams and John Bateman, they've all played at the top level and these games have been the biggest I've ever played in.
“I've learned a lot from these last two weeks. That first game was the most physical I've ever been involved in. We've put our bodies in front of them, we've dominated them in two Tests and that's what we want to do again.”
Saturday’s clash will be played in front of the biggest attendance of the series and Newman stated: “That's what the lads want, we want big crowds and especially here at Leeds, it'll be special if I'm in the side. But we need that win, we want that win and to make it 3-0 will be massive.”
England: from Matty Ashton (Warrington Wolves), John Bateman (Wests Tigers), Tom Burgess (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Daryl Clark, Ben Currie (both Warrington), Tyler Dupree (Wigan Warriors), Chris Hill (Huddersfield Giants), Tom Johnstone (Catalans Dragons), Matty Lees (St Helens), Mike McMeeken (Catalans), Robbie Mulhern (Leigh Leopards), Harry Newman (Leeds Rhinos), Harry Smith, Morgan Smithies (both Wigan), Josh Thewlis, Danny Walker (both Warrington), Jack Welsby (St Helens), Elliott Whitehead (Canberra Raiders), George Williams (Warrington).
Tonga: from Isaiya Katoa, Felise Kaufusi (Dolphins), Moeaki Fotuaika (Gold Coast Titans), Tui Lolohea (Huddersfield Giants), Latu Fainu, Tolutau Koula, Haumole Olakau'atu (Manly Sea Eagles), Eliesa Katoa (Melbourne Storm), Tyson Frizell (Newcastle Knights), Will Penisini (Parramatta Eels),Moses Suli (St George Illawarra Dragons), Will Hopoate, Konrad Hurrell (St Helens), Siliva Havili, Keon Koloamatangi, Hame Sele, Tevita Tatola, (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Siua Wong (Sydney Roosters), Junior Tupou (Wests Tigers)
Referee: Chris Kendall (England). Kick-off: Saturday, 2.30pm, at Headingley.