Castleford Tigers: Holmes thought England call-up was a ‘prank’

Oliver Holmes.
Oliver Holmes.
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CASTLEFORD TIGERS forward Oliver Holmes thought he was being pranked when told he is in line to make his England debut this week.

The 26-year-old is one of six players promoted from the second-string Knights squad for tomorrow’s full Test against France in Leigh.

Oliver Holmes.

Oliver Holmes.

Players involved in last Saturday’s Betfred Super League Grand Final will not be involved so Holmes has a surprise opportunity to show England boss Wayne Bennett what he can do.

“I didn’t really expect the call,” he admitted. “I got it when I was in the middle of a gig in Leeds on Thursday so it was a bit like a Trigger Happy TV moment on the phone to [England manager] Jamie Peacock.

“It came as a bit of a shock, but it’s something every kid dreams of doing so I am looking forward to it.”

Holmes stressed he will “relish this opportunity.” He said: “It is an England Test so you’re playing for the England seniors and we are going to go out there and perform the best we can.

Dom Joly.

Dom Joly.

“Wayne will have been looking at the Knights and speaking to [Knights coach] Paul Anderson about how everyone’s getting on, but he gets a first-hand look at us now so it’s a bit of a fresh opportunity.”

Holmes trained with England for the first time on Sunday and recalled: “I enjoyed it. Obviously it was a little bit different; I’ve never trained with an England team before so it was new to me, but it has been good. Knowing a couple of the boys who’ve jumped up [from the Knights] for this game has been handy.

“There’s some people I know in the England squad, like Adam Milner from back at Cas, and that has made the transition that bit easier.

“The first session definitely helped. It was a bit of a physical session and you get an idea of where you’re at physically and mentally.”

Holmes and the rest of the Knights squad jet out to Brisbane on Thursday to prepare for two Tests in Papua New Guinea. He added: “It has given me a bit of an earlier look at the way England is as a set-up, the plays and how how Wayne wants us attacking and defending.

“Obviously that’s going to filter down to us at the Knights. Training with the senior boys and picking up bits and bats will definitely help and I’ll try and take that into the Knights.

“If you look at previous England ‘A’ and Knights squads that have been and gone you can see that players have progressed through that pathway. It is a young squad so there’s plenty of room for improvement and I think it is going to be a massive experience having a tour to the other side of the world. Hopefully that stands everybody in good stead moving forward.”