Rugby League: Leeds Rhinos’ treble-winner Hall targets Test series triumph

Ryan Hall
Ryan Hall
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IT HAS been an historic year for Leeds Rhinos winger Ryan Hall and he is close to achieving yet another milestone.

Hall was a member of Rhinos’ Challenge Cup and Super League Grand Final-winning teams and scored the dramatic try – after the hooter had sounded – which secured the league leaders’ shield.

Those achievements made it the greatest season in the club’s history, but Hall still has two games left – and another huge prize to win.

An England success against New Zealand in London tomorrow would give the hosts a 2-0 lead in the three-match series and seal Hall’s first major international trophy.

England – or Great Britain as they then were – have not won a Test series against one of rugby league’s other leading nations since a 3-0 crushing of the Kiwis in 2007, two years before Hall made his international debut.

Their last win in any game against Australia was nine years ago this week and the victory in Hull ended a four-year wait to get the better of New Zealand, who are the current Four Nations champions and rated the best side in the world.

England have been one up in series before and failed to get the job done, particularly against Australia and Hall knows the hard work still lies ahead.

But he believes it will be a significant achievement if England can come out on top tomorrow.

“I don’t want to tempt fate, but it is there for the taking,” said Hall, who was one of three Leeds players – alongside Zak Hardaker and Kallum Watkins – on duty in last Sunday’s 26-12 triumph at Hull’s KC Stadium.

“It sprung straight to mind after the first game that if we do the job this week, we could potentially go 2-0 up. That’s what we all want to do and I think it’s what the English public want us to do. Obviously the Kiwis are quite a force and we know they are going to do their best to make sure that doesn’t happen.

“I think they will get better as the series goes on, but so will we.”

New Zealand are without several key players, including half-backs Kieran Foran and Shaun Johnson, but Hall insisted that shouldn’t take anything away from England if they do go on to lift the Baskerville Shield.

“They are a good side, they are number one in the world,” he stressed.

“They are missing some personnel, but they are still a very good side – they have got some strength in depth.

“We can only play what’s in front of us, like we did last week.”

England proved five days ago they have what it takes to get over the top of the Kiwis and Hall said the plan for tomorrow is to carry on where they left off.

The Wall of White trailed 10-0 and 12-6, but scored 20 unanswered points either side of the break and Hall said: “We just need to go out and do what we do in practice and start a little bit better than we did last week.

“The start was really poor, the Kiwis got on the front foot and we need to limit that.

“We can’t rely on being able to come back against a team like New Zealand.”

The win in Hull has boosted already healthy ticket sales for rugby league’s first visit to London’s Olympic Stadium.

Hall reckons the decision to take the Test to such an iconic venue is a good one and will add extra spice to what is already set to be a highly-charged occasion.

“I never even thought about playing there until it got announced,” he admitted.

“A lot of people in the UK watched the Olympics and it was a great spectacle.

“To get a chance to play in such a famous stadium is a great honour and it is great we are spreading the word of rugby league.

“It always seems to be an uphill battle, but the people behind it are doing a good job.

“The more we can get our sport’s name out there, the better it is.

“Hopefully we can put a good spectacle on and that will be good for the sport.

“Ticket sales have gone well and from what I’ve heard, there’s a lot of people actually from London who are going to the game, so that is a good sign.

“They don’t usually get to see top live games, so it’s very encouraging from our point of view that the public of London want to watch our sport.”

Tomorrow will be Hall’s 33rd competitive game of a long, sapping season, but he insisted he is feeling better than he ever has at this stage of the year.

“I missed five for Leeds, because I had a broken hand in the middle of the year, so I’ve played less than I normally do,” he said.

“I enjoy playing for England and I have got plenty left in the tank for these last two games.

“It has been a great year on a club note and now this is the first chance for me to have international success.

“I have been in teams that have been so close. I’ve been in wins over Wales and France, but never had a series win over the Kiwis or Australia.

“A lot of the team haven’t tasted major international success yet and we are all very hungry and we know how big it would be.

“It would mean a lot to me, it would make 2015 a great year – one people will talk about for years.

“I will certainly tell the grandkids all about 2015.

“We just need to go and do it now.”