England Knights looking to capture fans' "imagination" as Jamaica arrive for historic Headingley clash

England Knights players Kruise Leeming, Cameron Smith, Mikolaj Oledzki and Jack Walker fly the English flag at Headingley.
England Knights players Kruise Leeming, Cameron Smith, Mikolaj Oledzki and Jack Walker fly the English flag at Headingley.
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England Knights will play Jamaica in an historic international fixture at Leeds Rhinos’ Emerald Headingley Stadium on Sunday October 20 (3pm).

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Jamaica players Michael Lawrence, Jordan Turner and Ross Peltier getting ready for action at Headingley

Jamaica players Michael Lawrence, Jordan Turner and Ross Peltier getting ready for action at Headingley

The game will serve as an important part of both countries’ build-up to the 2021 Rugby League World Cup.

Jamaica, who have Leeds-born rugby legend Jason Robinson as one of their tournament operations directors, made history last autumn by beating USA to secure their first-ever World Cup appearance.

Wakefield Trinity winger Ben Jones-Bishop and Rhinos full-back Ashton Golding are some of the Super League players who have represented the Reggae Warriors and more with Jamaican heritage are now joining the ranks including Huddersfield Giants duo Jordan Turner and Michael Lawrence.

The fixture against the Knights will provide high-quality international experience for their team at one of the host venues for RLWC2021 but also a platform for them to connect with the hundreds of thousands of British Jamaicans, the second-largest Jamaican population outside the island itself.

The Knights, meanwhile, were re-established last year as part of the RFL’s England Performance Unit, playing their first two matches since 2013 on a short tour to Papua New Guinea.

Kevin Sinfield, the RFL’s Rugby Director who leads that EPU, said: “This is a fixture that works on so many levels, and I hope it will capture the imagination of rugby league supporters and Jamaicans in Leeds, Yorkshire and well beyond.

“The Knights are an important part of the EPU as we build towards hosting the World Cup in 2021, and it was a priority to find them meaningful competition again this autumn after the unique experiences they gained in Papua New Guinea last year.

“The way the Jamaica team has developed over the last few years to reach the World Cup has already been a bit of a rugby league fairytale, and it’s great that the Knights can help them with their preparations for RLWC2021.”

Eight members of the first Knights Performance Squad that was announced in May 2018 have already earned promotion to the senior England set-up to make Test debuts.

More will hope to do so in the forthcoming fixture at Headingley as England build towards 2021 and a revised Knights squad will be announced in the morning.

Jamaica coach Jermaine Coleman grew up as a member of Leeds’ Jamaican community and played for Hunslet earlier in his career.

He is now London Skolars coach and said: “This is an exciting opportunity for us as team.

“The effort that has gone into the journey so far has been unbelievable.

“We have a fantastic group of people involved with the team both on and off the field. We see this as our first steps in our preparation to the World Cup.

“The England Knights will be an excellent team full of Super League quality from one to 17 so the step up for us is going to be a challenge.

“The one thing this group does better than anything is rise to challenges so we can’t wait for this game opportunity.”