Leeds Rhinos: Watkins is ready to shine

Kallum Watkins in match action.
Kallum Watkins in match action.
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TEENAGE talent Kallum Watkins hasn’t given up hope of forcing his way into England’s 2011 Four Nations side.

The 19-year-old Leeds Rhinos three-quarter missed out on England’s elite training squad, but has been selected for the back-up Knights group.

He attended their first get-together at RAF Cranwell in Lincolnshire this week – and revealed he is hopeful of making the step up into the full side if he maintains his current form.

“For me, this year is just about playing more games and keeping developing as a player and a person,” said Watkins, who missed most of last season due to an anterior cruciate knee ligament injury.

Target

“It (the Four Nations) can be a target for me, if I keep playing each week and I keep getting picked.

“I have got to keep working hard and if I get picked by Brian Mac (Leeds coach Brian McDermott) I’ll try and put in a good performance every game.

“It is hard work out there because teams are getting tougher and the competition’s getting better, but I have got to keep going, keep training hard and hopefully my chances will come.”

Watkins described his Knights selection as a “good acknowledgement” from national boss Steve McNamara.

He added: “It was good to go into camp and get to know a couple of the lads I hadn’t met before, but there are a lot of lads I do know as well.

“It was two full days, for team building. There are some good young players out there, they’ve proved themselves in Super League and it’s good recognition to get picked for England Knights.”

Rhinos have six players in the England elite training squad and three of those – Jamie Peacock, Danny McGuire and now Ben Jones-Bishop – are on the casualty list.

Jones-Bishop suffered a dislocated shoulder in the opening moments of last weekend’s win over Salford City Reds and Watkins said he feels for his former academy colleague.

“It’s a real shame for him,” he said. “It is a big disappointment for Bish, but hopefully he can get back as soon as. He is a great talent and we will miss him.”

Monday marked a year since Watkins suffered his season-ending knee injury playing for Rhinos in a defeat at Huddersfield Giants.

He underwent a knee reconstruction, but has played in all five games so far this term and was man of the match in the win over Salford, making two try-saving tackles, scoring a touchdown and setting up another.

“I have just been trying to work hard and build my legs up following the injury,” he said.

“Hopefully I will keep getting chances to play, I can carry on performing and I’ll keep improving”

Of his try-saving tackles, he said: “Our goal line defence has been a bit of a downer the last couple of games and we have worked hard on that. I was just trying to get the ball, sometimes it is not all about strength and power, it is about getting hold of the ball and preventing them putting it down.”

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