Leeds Rhinos: Singleton aiming to play for Ireland in World Cup
The Barrow-born forward has made himself available for Ireland, who will kick off their campaign against hosts Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby on November 5.
Singleton has represented England at schools, academy and Knights level and is keen to win full Test honors in the future, but plans to turn green for the global tournament which begins in less than two months’ time.
Now 24, Singleton is in his seventh season in Rhinos’ first-team squad – though he made only one substitute appearance in each of his first two – and has become one of the mainstays of their pack.
Tonight’s home clash with Hull in the Betfred Super-8s is set to be his 24th game of the season and he already has 124 senior matches under his belt, including Challenge Cup and Grand Final triumphs in 2015.
After establishing himself as one of Rhinos’ first-choice props – all but one of his appearances this year have been in the starting side – he admits he is at a time in his career when representative rugby is becoming a serious ambition, though accepts he is unlikely to break into England contention at this late stage.
“I think every player wants to play internationals and represent their country,” Singleton said.
“I played for the [England] Knights in 2013 and I went right through the rep’ teams, the 16s and 18s.
“It is probably too late to push for the England squad this year, but I do do qualify for Ireland through my mum and I will be putting my hand up.
“I’m not sure when its squad is named, but I’m in the squad and hopefully, as long as I don’t get any injuries, I will be representing them in the World Cup.”
International qualification is based on World Cup cycles, so Singleton could play for Ireland this year and still be available for England at the next tournament – though players are not allowed to switch between the top-tier nations of Australia, New Zealand and England.
The month-long tournament will be staged in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea and Singleton admitted it is too good an opportunity to miss.
“The position I was in, I had to think about what I was going to be doing at the end of the season,” he said.
“I do want to play for England, but if I get chance to play in a World Cup it will be a great experience and a good opportunity to represent where my mum was born – and I could still play for England in the future.”
Rhinos team-mate Anthony Mullally already has four Ireland caps and Singleton added: “Hopefully if we finish the season well a couple of other boys will be there. Hally [Ryan Hall] and Kallum [Watkins] will be there and Stevie [Ward] qualifies for England, Ireland and Wales!”
Singleton’s first priority is helping Rhinos secure second place in the Super-8s and a home semi-final.
A win tonight would go a long way towards achieving that, but it is also an opportunity to highlight what he can do against one of the biggest packs in the competition.
Hull prop Scott Taylor is a member of England’s elite performance squad and front-row partner Liam Watts, who was their best forward in last Saturday’s Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final win over Wigan Warriors, but will be rested tonight, is also being tipped as a candidate for coach Wayne Bennett’s World Cup party.
Singleton said: “All over the park they [Hull] have got young, English players which is nice to see.
“The likes of Watts and Taylor are both looking a decent shot for England in the World Cup. Their pack were strong in the Cup final so we have to try and nullify that threat.”
Rhinos will be guaranteed a semi-final appearance if they win tonight and Singleton described their fourth meeting of the year with Hull as “a massive game in the context of things”.
He said: “It will be massive for us if we can get two points, but with that comes a bit of pressure. It should be quite an intense game.”
Hull have had little time to prepare since their Cup win and the post-Wembley celebrations.
“We have been there,” Singleton said. “But Hull have won it back-to-back and they know what to expect.
“They will have learned a lot of lessons last year and I think they will get things right this time, I don’t think their form will drop.
“It is a massive game for them as well because they will want to cement a top-four spot, but for us we need to find some consistency.
“I feel like sometimes over the last three weeks we have played really well.
“Against Wigan we were good, we were where we wanted to be.
“We had a blip against Wakefield, but we reacted well when we played Saints.
“They were a strong side in good form and we performed well to get the job done.
“We know if we get the two points against Hull it puts us in a great position to get a home semi-final – and we need to keep our foot on the gas and make sure we are in good form for the play-offs.”