Leeds Rhinos winger Ash Handley on his long-winded Lions route to PNG

England's Ash Handley scores in the Word Nines. (SWPIX)
England's Ash Handley scores in the Word Nines. (SWPIX)
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FROM PARIS to Port Moresby was certainly not a journey Great Britain call-up Ash Handley was expecting to make this autumn.

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The Leeds Rhinos was in the French capital when he discovered he would be flying back to the other side of the world to play for the injury-hit Lions this week.

Handley, 23, has already been out to Australia once to play for England Nines last month and had been on stand-by for Great Britain as they embarked on a tour of New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.

But when former Leeds team-mates Ryan Hall and Zak Hardaker were both ruled out by injury, as well as Wigan Warriors centre Ash Handley, he got the nod.

Handley is now currently in Brisbane with the squad as they make final preparations before moving on to Port Moresby to face PNG on Saturday.

“Kev (Sinfield) pulled me on Monday when we had a meeting at Leeds and said there’s a chance you might have to go over,” he said, about the Rhinos director of rugby who also works as the RFL rugby director.

“I didn’t really think too much of it if I’m honest.

“He said if he rings me it will be good news. I got a phone call when I was in Paris on Wednesday morning and he said that I’m going to go down.

“I came back from Paris on Thursday night and set off on Friday afternoon to come here.”

Handley, who scored 22 tries in 29 games for Leeds this season and made the Dream Team, hopes to make his mark on his full international debut.

“Circumstances are unfortunate for other players,” he said.

“But it’s opened a window for me to come in and hopefully get a chance to play against PNG.

“I want to try to keep the consistency that I had at the end of the year and push on.

“It’s real nice to get noticed for England Nines and then this chance has come up and hopefully I can take it with both hands.”

The majority of the Great Britain squad was selected from the England Nines with Wayne Bennett coaching both sides.

The Lions, though, are in dire need of a result against PNG on Saturday given they have lost all three Tests so far against Tonga and New Zealand (twice).

Although he is uncapped, Handley is actually one of the few tourists to have experience of facing the unique experience that is set to await them in PNG.

He played for England Knights in both their games against the Kumuls last year.

“It was a great experience,” recalled the winger, whose Rhinos team-mates Rhys Martin and Wellington Albert are also set to be in the opponents’ ranks this weekend.

“It’s hot - very hot over there - the fans are crazy , trying to jump over the fences to get on the pitch and get a bit of kit off you!

“The team itself is strong; they come at you, and throw themselves into challenges.

“It will be a tough ask but hopefully we can get the win.

“I’m looking forward to seeing them (Martin and Stanley) and hopefully getting that win over them and then take bragging rights back to Leeds.”