IT HASN’T been an easy season for Liam Sutcliffe, or any of his Leeds Rhinos team-mates, but he has ended it as the holder of an England Test cap.
Sutcliffe played the final 20 minutes of the 44-6 win over France at Leigh three days ago. Within 12 hours of the game finishing he was on a plane on the first leg of a flight to Brisbane with England Knights ahead of a two-Test series in Papua New Guinea which begins a week today.
The 23-year-old got his England chance in place of players from last week’s Betfred Super League Grand Finalists Wigan Warriors and Warrington Wolves, who were not selected.
He said: “It was great, it was just a great experience to be out there with those sorts of players and the whole thing of getting my first cap and things like that is something I won’t ever forget. I was in college when I got the call from JP [England manager Jamie Peacock]. I just shot out of class and I wasn’t sure what it was going to be about, but he said ‘you’re going to be with us on Sunday and maybe playing Wednesday’.
“I walked back into the classroom with a bit of a buzz. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday has been great being around all these types of players.”
Sutcliffe is known as a utility-back, but came on for England in the back-row.
“It was a bit different,” he said.
“It’s something I’ve not been used to throughout this year so my lungs were going.
“I made a couple of mistakes, but it was just about the experience of being out there which was great.”
The England call-up gave Sutcliffe chance to play under Wayne Bennett who is regarded as one of the greatest rugby league coaches of all time.
Sutcliffe said: “It has been great to work with him this week and just see how he is. Obviously you hear a lot about him in Australia, a big-name coach and to learn a few things off him has been brilliant.”
Sutcliffe rejoined the Knights group immediately after Wednesday’s game and described that as “something I’ve really been looking forward to”.
He said: “Everyone just wanted to get there after Wednesday and get ripped in in Brisbane and then on to Papua New Guinea.”