Morgan Gannon relishing England Knights duty after “crazy” year with Leeds Rhinos

SIX MONTHS after making his Leeds Rhinos debut, 17-year-old Morgan Gannon found himself training against England’s elite squad at Emerald Headingley this week.

The back-rower could cap a “crazy” breakthrough year by featuring for England Knights against Jamaica in Jordan Turner’s testimonial game at Castleford tomorrow.

He played 13 times for Leeds this season and was called into England’s second-string squad by coach Paul Anderson last week.

The Knights have been in camp in Leeds ahead of tomorrow’s game and went head to head with the elite group on Tuesday.

Morgan Gannon is held by Wakefield's Eddie Battye. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.

“It was good, getting a go against the seniors and chance to test ourselves,” Morgan said.

“It was a good, physical training session.”

But he admitted: “It is a bit weird. This last year has been a bit crazy, but it’s a good position to be in and I’m very grateful to be here.”

Gannon stepped straight up from Rhinos’ scholarship into the first-team squad at the end of last season.

Leeds Rhinos and England Knights' Morgan Gannon is tackled by Leigh's Joe Mellor and Junior Sa'u. Picture: Alex Whitehead/

He made his debut in a BBC-televised Betfred Challenge Cup defeat at St Helens in April and has been in or around the matchday side ever since.

“It is strange to be here from where I started,” he added.

“Once I got a couple of games I realised I could do a bit more.

“I think that’s all it took, one or two games to get a bit of confidence and I have gone from there.”

England Knights head coach Paul Anderson. Picture: Allan McKenzie/

For Gannon, it hasn’t been a case of a few minutes’ game time here and there.

He has played the full game several times and reflected: “I was happy to get the first 80 and I have kind of kicked on a bit from there.

“That was one of the things I was thinking or when I was playing 20/30 minutes in the middle, I wanted to get a good 80 minutes and I’m glad I’ve done that a few times this year.”

Even so, the phone call from Anderson was a shock.

“It came up ‘unknown number’,” Gannon said.

“I didn’t know whether to answer it, but I am glad I did – I wasn’t expecting it, but it was a pleasant surprise.”

The current Knights squad are aiming for the 2025 World Cup and Gannon noted: “There’s a lot of talent in this group.

“It is promising for what’s coming up. They are obviously doing something right in the develoment.

“It is a bright future.”

A Knights debut tomorrow would be another leap forward for Gannon, whose father Jim is a former Super League forweard.

“It is Jordan Turner’s testimonial so Jamaica will be wanting to put on a show,” Gannon predicted.

“They will want to do their best, they will come out with plenty of energy.

“We are all wanting to do the same, we have a point to prove so we are looking forward to it.

“Everyone here wants to push on and get that senior jersey.”

The full England squad to face France in Perpignan next weekend will be named on Sunday.

Rhinos’ Kruise Leeming, Harry Newman and Mikolaj Oledzki all trained against the Knights on Tuesday and Gannon said: “You couldn’t not hear Kruise talking, he was all over the shop, nice and loud.

“It was good to play against them, I’m always training against them, but to go against them 13 on 13 was good.

“They have all had good seasons so they definitely deserve to be in there.”

Tomorrow will end Gannon’s season, but he is already looking ahead to 2021. “I want to have a good pre-season and kick on for next year,” he pledged.

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