ENGLAND Academy will look to make history this evening, freshly laden with advice from someone who knows just what it feels like to do so.
Adam Milner, the Castleford Tigers loose forward who made his full England debut this autumn, presented the teenagers with their shirts last night ahead of the pivotal second Test against the Australian Schoolboys.
Although still a hooker back then, Milner was the captain the last time England Academy clinched a rare series victory (there have been just three in almost 40 years) against the tourists in 2010.
The current team is in sight of replicating that feat having beaten them at Leigh on Saturday and now all intentions are to finish off the job and give the Australians another timely reminder of England’s long-term potential.
Fittingly, given they are playing at Emerald Headingley, there are seven Leeds Rhinos’ players in Dave Elliott’s side as they look to end 2-0 victors.
It is no surprise Gary Hetherington, the club’ chief executive, will be a proud onlooker when the sides take to the field for the definitive 80 minutes ahead.
Indeed, he believes the club’s present batch of youngsters is the best since the famous ‘Golden Generation’ that under-pinned eight Super League titles from 2004 onwards.
“We had six players playing last weekend and have seven on Friday,” he said, the only unused Rhino Loui McConnell having been called up onto the bench in one of just two changes.
“I can’t ever remember us having such a big involvement.
“You’ve got to go back to the days of Danny McGuire, Rob Burrow, Kevin Sinfield and all that group who all came through and were promoted into the Rhinos first team. I do think this is the best group we’ve had in 20 years.
“Even though we’ve had some outstanding players graduate through our Academy since that ‘Golden Generation’ there’s never been as big a group as this.
“When you consider, too, three of last year’s Academy players – Jack Walker, Mikolaj Oledzki and Cameron Smith – played very little Academy as they did so well in the first team it shows what an encouraging position we’re in. It’s testament to the production line we have in place and the people who helped create it.
“Without putting too much pressure on, every one of them looks every bit a Super League player in-waiting; they all have a terrific attitude, determination and work ethic, all the criteria you need to help succeed.”
Leeds centre Harry Newman, who scored a try in last week’s 14-8 win, and club-mates Callum McLelland, Corey Johnson, Muizz Mustapha, Tom Holroyd and Owen Trout are all retained in Elliott’s matchday 17.
It shows what an encouraging position we’re in. It’s testament to the production line we have in place and the people who helped create it.Leeds Rhinos’ Gary Hetherington
Second-row Trout is promoted to the starting line-up after Wigan’s James McDonnell limped off at Leigh, while St Helens’ winger Tom Nisbet replaces Huddersfield Giants winger Louis Senior.
England will hope history repeats itself as Headingley was the venue when they defeated the previously all-conquering Australian Schoolboys for the first time 16 years ago. Back then Rhinos had five players involved, including Ryan Bailey and Richie Mathers, who both went on to win Super League Grand Finals with the club.
Hetherington admitted: “It would be great, not only for England Academy but the English game as a whole if they can win again.
“It would be a real boost for the sport and I hope all rugby league fans turn up to cheer on what would be a historic success.”