Luke Gale’s View From The Pitch: Why England’s International All Stars game should take precedence over Super League fixtures

I WAS absolutely made up when Shaun Wane rang on Monday to tell me I am in the England squad for Friday’s game.

By Luke Gale
Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 5:28 am
England coach, Shaun Wane. Picture: Allan McKenzie/
England coach, Shaun Wane. Picture: Allan McKenzie/

My last game for England was the World Cup final in 2017 and, since then, I’ve been injured every time there’s been an international.

After so long you begin to wonder if you’ll ever get a chance to pull the England jersey on again so I am massively grateful I have got the opportunity this week.

This will be my 11th cap and it will be a proud moment. Honestly, it feels as good as the first time I got the call-up.

Leeds Rhinos' Ash Handley is set to make his full England debut against the International All Stars. Picture: Allan McKenzie/

It has been a chequered few years, with injuries and a change of clubs, but it is always an honour and I don’t think that will ever change.

From a club point of view, it is not ideal but I am delighted Ash Handley and Mikolaj Oledzki are both in the squad for their England debuts and I am excited for both of them.

Ash has been fantastic for the last few years and deserves his call-up and Mik has been immense this year.

He has gone to a new level and I think he finally realises how good he can be and how good he is.

Leeds Rhinos' Mikolaj Oledzki is set to make his full England debut against the International All Stars. Picture: Tony Johnson/JPIMedia.

For Waney and the England selectors to see that is great and another feather in his cap.

He is a great character as well. We weren’t allowed to travel to training together, but I’d have loved an hour in the car with him because he makes me laugh. We set up a WhatsApp group for England training and he had probably messaged 100 times before breakfast on Tuesday.

It’s a real shame the mid-season Test has been overshadowed a bit by the Covid situation and arguing about who is going to play for the All Stars.

My personal view is I don’t know how we’ve got to this, where there’s Super League matches on the same day as England are playing.

I think internationals should take centre stage, like they do in football and all other sports and everything else is secondary.

Having club games at the same time as the international causes problems all round. For me, it should be a stand-alone fixture that fans and everyone can look forward to and rally round.

Internationals are the pinnacle of the game and there’s no greater honour than playing for your country.

I’ve heard some people saying this week’s game means nothing but, for the 34 who take the field at Warrington on Friday, it will mean everything.

I am massively excited for it.

We were due to be playing at Salford on Friday, but that has now been pushed back to Sunday.

Our squad is not massive at the moment because of injuries and then we’ve got three on duty for England and two in the All Stars squad.

We’ve had a Covid outbreak as well and that has ruled a few more out for Friday so it was near on impossible to raise a side. When we trained on Monday, for the first time in nearly two weeks, we had 14 players – and that included those of us who are playing in the England game.

People will say ‘give academy players a go’, but we have five or six academy-age players in our squad as it is.

I am all for giving kids a chance and our club has been brilliant at that this year, but you can’t throw them into a Super League game when they are not physically ready.

All this would have been avoided if there were no club games this week.

Now the Salford game’s on Sunday, the boys involved in the England and All Stars teams could back up.

I’ll put my hand up and we’ll crack on for Sunday as well – and, hopefully, Gary Hetherington will give me double time!

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