Leeds Rhinos prop Mikolaj Oledzki determined to perfect game as he aims to prove England worth

Mikolaj Oledzki has been an ever-present for England since Shaun Wane took charge - but the Leeds Rhinos prop believes his World Cup hopes are on a knife-edge.

By James OBrien
Saturday, 18th June 2022, 6:00 am
Updated Saturday, 18th June 2022, 8:05 am

The 23-year-old will come off the bench against the Combined Nations All Stars today, as he did in his previous two outings for the national team in 2021.

He is a player Wane rates highly but with England’s NRL contingent set to return to the fold for the first time in four years at the end of 2022, Oledzki knows his place is far from secure.

“We didn’t know who was in the squad until last weekend so every game was important because I wanted to be involved in the team this week,” he told The Yorkshire Post.

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Mikolaj Oledzki will make his third England appearance today. (Picture: SWPix.com)

“When I got the call it was the same excitement as the two times last year. It’s a great honour every time and I’m always grateful for the opportunity to be around the camp and get the chance to put the shirt on.

“But also, I know what Shaun expects of me individually and I’ve got a fair way still to go to reach those standards.”

Leeds endured a wretched start to the season before recording four wins in five games to move clear of relegation danger in Super League.

An ever-present, Oledzki has been one of the Rhinos' strongest performers, making an average of 99 metres and 31 tackles per game.

Mikolaj Oledzki is a cornerstone of the Leeds Rhinos pack. (Picture: SWPix.com)

But the Poland-born front-rower insisted he has yet to hit his straps in 2022.

Oledzki is striving for his best form to nail down a place in the England squad for the World Cup, an opportunity he knows does not come around very often.

“I’m definitely going to have to raise my standards and my game from where it has been the last few weeks,” he added.

“I’m not super happy with how my form has been and I know I’ve got a lot of things to improve on.

Mikolaj Oledzki in action against France. (Picture: SWPix.com)

“I’m far from where I want to be and where I was last year. In terms of consistency, I’m not where I want to be.

“But it’s something I’m really working hard on and in the next few months, I really want to start playing my best rugby again and hopefully give myself a chance for the World Cup at the end of the year.

“I’m still 23 but on the other hand, the World Cup doesn’t happen every year so I can’t waste any weeks, months or years saying I’m only young; you’ve got to grab it with both hands and do everything to be involved at every opportunity.”

The game against the All Stars at the Halliwell Jones Stadium is England’s penultimate hit-out before the World Cup this autumn.

Mikolaj Oledzki during an England training session. (Picture: SWPix.com)

Oledzki wants to deliver a performance that sticks in Wane’s mind.

“This is one of the only chances I’ve got to show what I can do in an England shirt before the end of the year,” said Oledzki. “I’ve got to grab it with both hands.

“It’s a massive opportunity for some of us lads who are on the fringes or just coming into the team.

“You can get your foot through the door and show Shaun what you can do in an England shirt.

“It’s definitely a big game and one you can’t let slip away through your hands.

“I need to do my job well and everything Shaun expects of me. I’ve got to show I’ve got the desire to do these things and work hard for the team.

“It’s an important game for me individually and for confidence too.”

Oledzki knows he will have his work cut out against a team boasting five big props in Ligi Sao, Zane Tetevano, Matt Prior, Chris Satae and David Fifita.

"They've got some heavy blokes and a heavy, strong pack so it will definitely be an intense and physical game," he added.

"But it's something you expect playing international rugby league and you can't be shocked by it when it comes to it; you have to expect it and know it's coming.

"That's something we're definitely going to have to match. I'm sure we will."

Oledzki moved with his family from Poland to England when he was nine, initially settling in Northamptonshire before moving to Leeds, where he first picked up a rugby ball around the age of 14.

He is hoping his remarkable journey includes a stop at a home World Cup.

“It’d be massive,” said Oledzki.

“There are some world-class players in this squad so to be involved at the end of the year would be a massive honour.

“It’d be the biggest achievement of my career. I’m going to do everything I can to be involved.”

Before the World Cup takes centre stage, there is the small matter of the final 12 rounds of Super League and the play-offs.

Oledzki is ready to throw everything into the last few months of the season at both club and international level.

“Back in Leeds we’re starting to play some good rugby and are in better form,” he said.

“I know if I can improve my rugby that will help the team too. The World Cup is a massive motivation but so is being good for Leeds and trying to drive the standards and play well myself to get us up the table.

“There are still 12 games left so it’s still all to play for.”