Ash Handley: Super League the priority for Leeds Rhinos' England World Cup hopeful

His hat-trick last time out may have been seen as a message to England coach Shaun Wane, but winger Ash Handley says playing well for Leeds Rhinos is all he is focussing on.

By Peter Smith
Tuesday, 8th March 2022, 11:29 am

Handley crossed three times in last Thursday’s 34-18 win at Wakefield Trinity, just two days after he was left out of the first England training squad of 2022.

Wane has made it clear players not selected can still force their way into his World Cup thoughts if they show good form for their club and Handley insisted that is and always has been his priority.

“Playing well for Leeds is the only way you’re going to get in the England squad,” said Handley, who stressed last week’s omission was not in his mind going into the Wakefield game.

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Ash Handley scores his third try for Rhinos against Wakefield. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

“I am just focusing on Leeds Rhinos and playing well for them.”

Handley made his first appearance for England in last June’s mid-season international against the Combined Nations All Stars.

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There is strong competition for wing spots at the World Cup, but he pledged to do everything he can to try and be in the team to face Samoa at Newcastle’s St James’ Park for the opening game of the tournament on October 15.

“Everyone wants to play for their country,” Handley said.

“All you can do is consistently play well for your club, to get recognised to be able to do that.

“That is all I can control, playing well for Leeds, week-in and week-out.”

The tries against Wakefield took Handley’s total for the season so far to four, following one in the opening defeat by Warrington Wolves.

Of his form so far this year, Handley said: “I think it has been a bit stop-start.

“I thought I started well against Warrington, but then I had a little bit of a niggle going into the Wigan game.

“It is just about getting back to back games and playing well.”

Rhinos scored five first half tries at Wakefield to lead 30-0 by the break in what was their best attacking performance of the season so far.

“It was good, it was nice to get some ball and finish off the tries,” Handley said of his own contribution.

“The halves played well against Wakey and we put on some nice moves.

“They have given us a bit of direction and a bit of structure to what we are doing, which is going to benefit everyone around them, including me on the edge.

“Obviously it is hard at first for the new boys to click together.

“Even though they played together in the NRL a while back, they still needed to get used to each other again.

“It wasn’t going to happen over night, but it has been good watching them getting more of an understanding with each other.

“Obviously it is a big change from Richie [Myler] to Wakka [Jack Walker, at full-back} and Wakka needs to get on the same page as them, but it looked good against Wakey.

“Now we need to push on and hopefully get on a bit of a roll.”

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