LEEDS RHINOS forward Stevie Ward is on the verge of a “remarkable” England debut – after just four competitive games this season.
The 22-year-old was yesterday called into the England squad to replace club-mate Brett Ferres who has been ruled out due to a calf injury suffered at training in London this week.
Ferres will miss Saturday’s Test against France in Avignon and the Ladbrokes Four Nations campaign which begins against New Zealand at Huddersfield’s John Smith’s Stadium a week later.
Ward sustained a serious knee injury in Leeds’ win at Huddersfield Giants which clinched the Super League leaders’ shield in September last year.
He underwent three knee operations and surgery to “clean out” a shoulder before returning at the end of Rhinos’ campaign in the Qualifiers.
Ward made two appearances as a substitute and started in Rhinos’ final two games of the season and was then called into England coach Wayne Bennett’s train-on squad.
Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington said: “As one door closes, another one opens. It is a remarkable end to the season for Stevie after such a traumatic 12 months.
“To be called into the England squad after playing only four games is a remarkable feat and it could be quite a fairytale end to the season for him.”
Rhinos are awaiting full details of Ferres’ injury, but Hetherington said: “I think it’s more of a precaution. He’s strained his calf, but it’s one of those that the more you train on it, the worse it gets.
“It’s probably a three-week injury, but it’s quite a critical three weeks. It’s not a serious one and he doesn’t need anything doing to it.”
Ferres, 30, will return to Yorkshire to be assessed by Rhinos’ medical staff in order to plan his treatment and recovery.
Bennett said: “Brett is a key member of the senior squad and he’s hugely disappointed to be missing out.
“He had been working hard with the train-on squad and has continued to do so in our camp.
“Myself and all the England team wish Brett all the best with his recovery and look forward to seeing him in action next season.”
Ferres said: “After such a tough year I am absolutely gutted to have had to pull out of the England squad and finish the year like this.
“Representing my couyntry means so much to me. It was a goal at the start of the year and will be next year for the World Cup.”