IT HAS been a long time between drinks for Leeds Rhinos half-back Richie Myler and he is determined to make the most of his unexpected return to the international arena tonight.
Myler, 28, earned the most recent of his half a dozen Test caps six years ago, but was drafted back into the England squad at late notice ahead of this evening’s clash with France at Leigh Sports Village and the forthcoming three-game home series against New Zealand.
Leeds’ player of the year has been called up as a replacement for Castleford Tigers scrum-half Luke Gale who withdrew from the England squad because of a knee injury.
Myler, who will start in the halves, made it clear when he joined Rhinos from Warrington Wolves a year ago he had his sights set on an England recall and has pledged not to let the opportunity get away.
“It’s nice to be back in the frame and back among it,” said the former Widnes Vikings and Salford pivot who scored 11 tries, six goals and a drop goal in 31 appearances for Rhinos this year.
“I’m just excited and looking forward to it. I am ready to start playing again now.”
With Ryan Hall and Kallum Watkins both on the injured list there were no Leeds players named in England’s original squad for this autumn’s internationals, but Myler is one of two set to feature tonight, alongside utility-player Liam Sutcliffe who will be among the substitutes.
Centre/winger Ash Handley was not selected after being promoted from the second-string England Knights, along with Sutcliffe, as cover for players from Wigan Warriors and Warrington who are being rested after last Saturday’s Grand Final.
Myler had a tough first season at Rhinos, who finished ninth in Betfred Super League and then second in the Qualifiers and admitted his England call-up is a welcome bonus.
“It has been an up and down year for us as a team so it’s quite nice to get this recognition at the end of it and hopefully I can do well,” he said.
“I know most of the players in the squad.
“I’ve played against them and with some of them for quite a while now.
“Rugby league lads are rugby league lads, they’re all pretty good. We’re cracking on now and getting on with it.”
Sutcliffe and Handley will rejoin the Knights squad after tonight’s game.
They fly to Brisbane tomorrow for a training camp before heading to Papua New Guinea for two Tests against last year’s World Cup quarter-finalists.
Myler reckons his club-mates deserve their opportunity to show England boss Wayne Bennett what they can do.
He said: “It’s great recognition for them. They’ll be hoping to kick on now and whether it’s this game or PNG, they are really looking forward to it.”
Tonight’s match is a warm-up for the series against New Zealand which begins in Hull a week on Saturday and also includes Tests at Liverpool’s Anfield stadium and Elland Road in Leeds.
The Kiwis bounced back from their dismal World Cup campaign to beat Australia 26-24 last Saturday and Myler reckons that set the scene for a thrilling series.
“Everyone’s looking forward to it and I am now too,” he added. “I am glad to be a part of it and I can’t wait to get going.”
Myler and the Knights players will go into their ‘off season’ after the international round of matches, but will be back in training with Rhinos before Christmas.