Leeds Rhinos hooker Kruise Leeming reveals his England World Cup ambitions

FOR any aspiring, uncapped hooker, forcing your way into the England squad is currently probably one of the hardest challenges around – but Leeds Rhinos’ Kruise Leeming is ready to take it on.

AMBITION: Kruise Leeming has his sights set on representing England at the World Cup. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.
AMBITION: Kruise Leeming has his sights set on representing England at the World Cup. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

Admittedly, the Leeds No9 has a tough enough battle as it is just nailing down his Emerald Headingley spot given the excellent competition provided by Brad Dwyer.

Yet, when you look at what is in front of him when it comes to the Test arena, the challenge rises considerably.

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Three of the four hookers in Shaun Wane’s current squad have all won the Steve Prescott Man of Steel – James Roby, Daryl Clark and, 2020 incumbent, Castleford Tigers’ Paul McShane.

The one who hasn’t – Great Britain No9 Josh Hodgson – has played in an NRL Grand Final with Canberra Raiders where he is also co-captain.

Wane is certainly spoilt for choice. Nevertheless, Leeming – who toured Papua New Guinea with England Knights in 2018, faced Jamaica a year later and is in Paul Anderson’s current Knights squad – has hopes of forcing his way into Wane’s plans for the 2021 World Cup in October.

Posed the question, he said: “The timing’s right for me now. I’m 25. People have done it younger, others have done it older. Who knows?

“But it’s something I’m quietly working towards and it’s the ultimate honour isn’t it?

CUP DREAM: Leeds Rhinos hooker Kruise Leeming. Picture: Phil Daly/Leeds Rhinos/SWpix.com.

“I don’t think anyone who starts out just wants to be a Super League player. I definitely don’t just want to do that.

“I want to be able to tell my kids and grandkids that I played for England against the Aussies and Kiwis. I’m working towards it every year and will work as hard as possibly I can to get there. Hopefully, when I do, I’ll give a good account of myself. It (RLWC2021) is something I have got in my mind.”

There is no doubting the ex-Huddersfield Giants star’s talent; quick, slick and such a dangerous runner, Leeming has plenty of the requisite attributes.

Equally, he knows just how stellar the competition is but he thrives on that and added: “It puts you in good stead. If I do end up in that England squad and end up getting played, I’ll have had to overcome some really good nines to get there; I won’t have been handed that opportunity.

COMPETITION: James Roby is among a number of exceptional hookers in contention for the England World Cup squad. Picture by Ed Sykes/SWpix.com.

“We are very, very strong in the nines department in England. If I’ve overcome those guys, the likes of the Robys – who has done everything and is one of the best in the world – as well as Daz Clark who’s right up there, your Paul McShanes and Josh Hodgson who’s played in the NRL for so long, it’s thoroughly deserved. One thing is you should be proud and the second is you should take some confidence from that; you should feel confident to mix it when you come up against the best in the world.”

As Rhinos step up their preparations ahead of their Super League kick-off next month, Leeming says he feels in great shape – a direct contrast to this time last year.

After Leeds bought him from Huddersfield, he suffered a knee injury in pre-season training at the end of 2019 and was unable to make his debut until August.

When Leeming did eventually debut, he went on to make his mark and helped Rhinos win the Challenge Cup.

IN CONTENTION: Warrington Wolves hooker Daryl Clark will be competing with Kruise Leeming for a place in the England squad. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

But he says Leeds fans can expect more from him in 2021, explaining: “I don’t want to jinx anything but I feel fit, strong and in the best shape I’ve ever been in so it’s setting me up or giving me the best chance to have a good year.

“You need those miles and with games coming thick and fast last year I was game-ready and fit enough to get through them. But I don’t think I was fit enough to excel in them. That probably showed in my consistency; I had some really good games and some I wasn’t too happy about, This year I’ve got the robustness in my legs.”

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