HE WOULD have loved to be out there in front of his home city crowd, but Reece Lyne is backing England to kick off their Test series against New Zealand with a win today.
The Wakefield Trinity centre, who is from Hull, has not been selected for the clash at KCOM Stadium, but is confident England will get off to a flying start.
Lyne made his England debut in last week’s one-off Test against France, but coach Wayne Bennett is set to go with Wigan’s Oliver Gildart and Hull man Jake Connor in the centres today. Leeds Rhinos half-back Richie Myler and Mark Percival, the St Helens centre, will miss out from the initial 19, with Jonny Lomax (St Helens) set to play at full-back and Sam Tomkins (Wigan) in the halves.
“It will be really tough,” Lyne predicted. “New Zealand are a top-three ranked team and they beat Australia the other week. It is always tough against the Kiwis and they’ll be coming here looking to win on our home soil, but hopefully we can do a job.”
Watching from the sidelines is not how Lyne wanted to spend this afternoon. Having had a taste of England action in the 44-6 thrashing of France he is keen for a crack at the Kiwis over the next two weeks, but insisted: “Being in the squad is a really good experience.
“Obviously it’s full of internationals and a world class coaching group. I am learning every day and it can only be good for my development going forward.
“I am here to play, so hopefully I can play. I am feeling really fresh and when you come into something like this you are raring to go and ready to rip in, but training and everything is really intense and I’ll be able to take that back to my club team.
“Every day is a learning curve, which is really good.”
Even if he does not get a game against the Kiwis, Lyne can reflect on having made his England debut.
“It was a really proud moment to get out there and get the win,” he said of featuring against the French. “It was a pleasing moment for me and I thought I did all right, I hadn’t played for a few weeks so it was good to get a bit of timing back and get a bit of contact back into the body.”
Clubmate Tom Johnstone, playing on the left, scored a hat-trick on his debut, but Lyne saw less of the ball on the opposite side of the field.
He was strong defensively, though and feels that will stand him in good stead if the call comes for the second Test at Anfield, Liverpool, a week tomorrow or the final game seven days after that, in Leeds.
“Wayne talked about having a strong defensive mindset so we tried making that a real focal point,” he said. “We dropped a bit of ball in the second half so it was a good chance to do that.”
Lyne was a surprise selection for the England squad having initially been part of the Knights performance group. They play Papua New Guinea in Lae today and Lyne admitted: “I am not too keen on flying so that was an added bonus [of full England selection}.
“I’m sure the Knights boys will have a good trip and it’ll be a really good life experience.”
England: from Lomax, McGillvary, Gildart, Makinson, Williams, Hill, Hodgson, Graham, Whitehead, G Burgess, T Burgess, Bateman, Clark, Connor, O’Loughlin, Thompson, Tomkins.
New Zealand: Watene-Zelezniak, Maumalo, Marsters, Manu, Rapana, Johnson, Nikorima, J Bromwich, Smith, Waerea-Hargreaves, Proctor, Liu, Fisher-Harris. Subs from K Bromwich, Ah Mau, Taupau, Blair, Hughes, Tapine.
Referee: Robert Hicks (England).
Kick-off: Today, 2.30pm at KCOM Stadium, Hull.