INCLUSION IN the England squad for this autumn’s Tests against France and New Zealand is a “dream come true” for Wakefield Trinity speedster Tom Johnstone.
The 23-year-old, who was born in Germany and played his youth rugby for Leeds side Stanningley, was called up by England today, a day after being named in the 2018 Betfred Super League Dream Team.
Twelve months ago he was recovering from a season-ending anterior cruciate ligament (acl) injury, but he bounced back to score 24 tries in Super League and the Super-8s, second only to Man of Steel candidate Ben Barba.
“From last year, being out for the season, all I wanted to do was get back playing and just enjoying my rugby,” Johnstone admitted. “To be selected for the Dream Team and in the England squad is unbelievable. I am over the moon.”
He added: “Getting in the squad is one thing, but getting on the pitch to play against the Kiwis, it would be a childhood dream.
“I’ve been and watched them play at Headingley [against Leeds Rhinos in 2015] and it was incredible so to actually step on to the field and play opposite Roger Tuivasa-Sheck – who’s my dad’s favourite player other than me – would be absolutely mindblowing.
“I think my dad would be happier than I would. It would round off a dream season for me, coming back from what happened last year.”
Ironically, an acl injury suffered by Leeds Rhinos’ departing star Ryan Hall has created an England vacancy.
“It was really bad news for him,” Johnstone said. “I went through it and I know how it feels.
“I have put my hand out to him and said ‘if you need anything give me a shout’, but it opens up a spot to me and hopefully I can take that opportunity.”
Johnstone had his own injury scare when he suffered a knee and facial injuries in Trinity’s Super-8s clash with Catalans Dragons last month.
“I got an elbow from David Mead to my cheek, it was all inflamed and it put a dint in it,” he recalled.
“We had that in for a scan, but there was nothing wrong with that. Twenty minutes later there was a loose ball and I went to pick it up, someone dived on it and my foot got caught and I managed to hyper-extend my knee.
“That was what I did last time and I thought I had done my cruciate again. It was panic stations, but the scans came back saying the cruciate was intact, it was just bad bone bruising and a tweak to my mcl [medial collateral ligament].”
Johnstone described the wait for the scan result as “horrible”. He said: “As soon as we got the call through to say the cruciate was intact, I was disappointed to be injured, but I don’t think I’ve ever been as happy.
“I was so happy I don’t have to go through that again.”
An acl injury would have put an end to his England prospects, as well as keeping him sidelined until deep into next season.
“That would have been the worst bit,” he said.
“Working so hard to get back to where I am, to go through it all again and miss out on a possible call up would have been devastating.
“Luckily it was nothing serious and I’m ready to go.”