Leeds Rhinos news: Georgia Roche completes comeback as England face Brazil in women's RLWC2021 opener

Leeds Rhinos’ Georgia Roche will complete a remarkable comeback when the Women’s Rugby League World Cup kicks off in front of a northern hemisphere record crowd at Headingley on Tuesday.
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Roche’s World Cup prospects looked bleak when she suffered a broken ankle and ligament damage in August.

That kept her out of Rhinos’ Grand Final win over York City Knights, but the stand-off refused to give up hope and, three weeks after resuming training, is in England’s squad for the tournament opener against Brazil (2.30pm).

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“Getting injured at the back end of the year, I didn’t actually think I’d be here,” Roche admitted.

Rhinos' Georgia Roche scores for England in their mid-season win over France. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com.Rhinos' Georgia Roche scores for England in their mid-season win over France. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com.
Rhinos' Georgia Roche scores for England in their mid-season win over France. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com.

“Overcoming that and being selected in the squad was massive for me. I am really excited and ready to get going.”

Of her comeback, Roche added: “It is crazy what you can put your mind to when you really want something.

“You have to be smart as well, if I’d not had a chance I wouldn’t have put myself through it, but I always knew there was an end goal.

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“I have been back training now for three weeks and my ankle has held up with no issues at all. It is as good as new.”

Rhinos' Caitlin Beevers, seen scoring in a mid-season Test against France, is in the England squad to face Brazil. Picture by Paul Currie/SWpix.com.Rhinos' Caitlin Beevers, seen scoring in a mid-season Test against France, is in the England squad to face Brazil. Picture by Paul Currie/SWpix.com.
Rhinos' Caitlin Beevers, seen scoring in a mid-season Test against France, is in the England squad to face Brazil. Picture by Paul Currie/SWpix.com.

Roche was Woman of Steel in 2018, when she played for Castleford Tigers and nominated again this year.

All four winners of the award - Roche, Courtney Winfield-Hill, Jodie Cunningham and Tara-Jane Stanley - are in England’s squad to take on Brazil.

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Roche is set to partner Leeds teammate Winfield-Hill in the halves. Other Rhinos players in the initial 19 are outside-backs Caitlin Beevers and Fran Goldthorp, hooker Keara Bennett and back-rower Zoe Hornby.

Rhinos' Tara Moxon is in the Papua New Guinea squad to face Canada at Headingley on Tuesday. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.Rhinos' Tara Moxon is in the Papua New Guinea squad to face Canada at Headingley on Tuesday. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.
Rhinos' Tara Moxon is in the Papua New Guinea squad to face Canada at Headingley on Tuesday. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.
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England play Canada at Wigan on Saturday and complete their group fixtures against Papua New Guinea at Headingley four days later.

They will be expected to reach at least the semi-finals, but holders Australia and New Zealand, the only other previous winners, go into the tournament as the teams to beat.

Roche insisted: “I think a few people are underestimating what we’ve got. We have got a talented bunch who are willing to work hard so all I can say is, don’t write us off and expect the unexpected.”

Brazil are making their World Cup debut. They lost 16-4 to France in a warm-up game at Featherstone last week, which was the first time they had played in the northern hemisphere.

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“It is quite exciting, not knowing anything about them,” Roche said. “But I think we are the main focus, we will focus on ourselves, get everything we do right and I am sure we’ll come off as winners.”

Papua New Guinea, whose squad includes Leeds’ Tara Moxon, play Canada in the second part of Tuesday’s double-header, kicking off at 5pm.

A five-figure crowd is expected and Roche said: “It’s incredible, it shows how far the women’s game has come since 2013 and playing games at the likes of Dewsbury Rams.”

The Leeds stand-off has also welcomed the news Rhinos will next season become the first team to pay bonuses and incentives to their women’s team.

“It’s great, but we’ve done it for so long without those things, I don’t think much from us will change,” Roche reflected. “It is just a nice bonus to add to everything else.”