Leeds Rhinos' Mikolaj Oledzki keen to 'kick on' after impressing for England

Front-rower Mikolaj Oledzki has pledged to use his week in camp with England and the prospect of a World Cup in four months’ time as spurs to regain his best form for Leeds Rhinos.

By Peter Smith
Tuesday, 21st June 2022, 11:59 am

Oledzki was among the England substitutes in last Saturday’s 18-4 win over a Combined Nations All Stars team which included his Rhinos teammates Rhyse Martin, Zane Tetevano, Matt Prior and Kruise Leeming.

It was his third appearance for England, after the All Stars game 12 months ago and last autumn’s Test in France.

Oledzki made 156 metres during his 31 minutes on the field, behind only starting back-rowers John Bateman (189), Mike McMeeken (168) and Liam Farrell (163), who all had more game time, in the England stats.

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Mikolaj Oledzki is tackled by Combined Nations' David Fifita (number 17) and Chris Satae. Picture by Paul Currie/SWpix.com.

Typically, Oledzki wasn’t fully satisfied with his performance, but the 23-year-old is hoping it will be the start of a better run of form over the second half of the season.

“There is always room for improvement,” Oledzki insisted.

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“I know my defensive game always has things to improve on, whether that’s shoulder contact, getting up a bit quicker, getting a bit more line speed.

Mikolaj Oledzki is relishing Thursday's rematch with Saints after Leeds were nilled at home in April. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

“But in some areas I was happy with how it went.”

The big prop was Rhinos’ player of the year in 2021, but feels he hasn’t hit that level yet this season, despite being ever-present so far.

“I haven’t been firing on all cylinders, playing my best rugby for Leeds,” he added.

“I am not hiding from that, I know there’s a lot of room for improvement in my game at the moment, but to be in the camp for a week with England I could reenergise myself and it was a chance to see what the prize is at the end of the year with the World Cup.

Mikolaj Oledzki. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

“I am going back boosted and with that motivation to get better and hopefully kick on to start playing better rugby.”

Oledzki, who was born in Poland, will be in the opposite camp to five of his England teammates, including Super League’s top prop Alex Walmsley, when Rhinos visit Betfred Super League leaders and defending champions St Helens on Thursday.

Leeds are on the back of a heavy defeat at Huddersfield Giants 13 days earlier and Oledzki predicted: “It [will be] another tough, physical game.

“It is a big game and a must-win for us, so there’s a big week ahead.”

In the longer-term, Oledzki’s performance last weekend was a step towards a place in England’s World Cup squad. The national team will train again in July and August and are set to face Fiji in a warm-up game before their tournament opener against Samoa at Newcastle on October 15.

The win over All Stars was England’s first hit-out since last autumn, but Oledzki is confident their preparations are on track.

“It was good,” he said.

“We knew it was going to be a tough, physical game, which it was.

“There’s room for improvement, but it was a tough game and a tough win which we are really happy about.

“Last year we came up short, so this year it felt really good. The camp has been great, it was good to be with the lads for a week.

“We had a good time on and off the field and to top it off with a solid win was great.”