LEEDS RHINOS’ Richie Myler said he was “young and dumb” the last time he played for England but, five years later, is ready to make the most of the second chance he thought he may never get.
The scrum-half faces France at Leigh Sports Village tonight having only received a surprise call-up to Wayne Bennett’s squad on Sunday.
He has not been part of any of the Elite Performance squads since the Australian took over or the England Knights plans and last played for his country against the defunct Exiles in June, 2013.
However, with Castleford Tigers No 7 Luke Gale pulling out of the autumn internationals injured last week, St Helens’ Jonny Lomax nursing a knock and Wigan’s George Williams rested after playing in Saturday’s Grand Final win, Myler gets his shot.
“I was amongst this lot very young,” said the 28-year-old.
“I’m number 685 for England, only around three after James Graham – and he’s gone on to win 40-odd caps!
“It’s been a while, but I’m more mature and I’ve got another chance to have a really good crack at it.
“I’ve done a lot of growing up as a player since I debuted for England aged 18, and maybe I took it for granted a little bit.
“You’re young and dumb, you don’t sense it as much and when it’s taken away from you and it looks like you may never get the opportunity again, it’s a lot sweeter when it does come around.
“I’ve worked hard, I’ve never stopped doing that, and it’s nice that it’s paid off. It was getting to that stage (where he might not get a chance again) but I never gave up. There were a few people in front of me but that’s sport, isn’t it? I’ll grab this chance with both hands and give it my best.”
I’ve worked hard, I’ve never stopped doing that, and it’s nice that it’s paid off. It was getting to that stage (where he might not get a chance again) but I never gave up.Richie Myler
Myler lines up alongside Hull FC’s Jake Connor at half-back as Bennett gives debuts to eight players.
They are Castleford duo Adam Milner and Oli Holmes, Wakefield Trinity pair Tom Johnstone and Reece Lyne, Hull KR prop Robbie Mulhern, Saints front-row Luke Thompson, Hull full-back Jamie Shaul and Leeds utility back Liam Sutcliffe.
The last of Myler’s six Test appearances came when playing for Warrington in 2012. He spoke when joining then-champions Leeds from Catalans Dragons ahead of this season about potentially earning an international recall only for the Rhinos to endure a nightmare campaign that left them fighting relegation.
However, he was one of their bright sparks, earning Player of the Year and leading Super League’s try assists for much of the campaign. Asked if he feels he has a point to prove for England, Myler replied: “I think so, yeah – there’s no point hiding away from it.
“I think I’ve had a pretty good year personally; it wasn’t a year to shout about for Leeds Rhinos but in-house, to get the recognition from coaches and players, it’s nice. It shows I’m on the right track as there were big question marks over whether I would offer enough to Leeds this year and things like this show I’ve played my part.
“I’m humbled and honoured to be back involved with England.
“I had an inkling from (Leeds director of rugby) Kev (Sinfield) it might have happened, but I never knew for sure until I got that call.
“It’s a great set-up and opportunity for me. Wayne’s great, he’s really honest and straightforward and that’s all you can ask for.”
Myler has the chance to prove he is up to the job for the Test series against New Zealand, the first of three Tests being at Hull’s KCOM Stadium on Saturday week.
The Kiwis stunned world champions Australia 26-24 in Auckland on Friday. Lomax is expected to be fit for the first Test and Williams will also come into the mix.
But Myler, who has never played in a World Cup, said: “I get first crack at it and it’s up to me to take the opportunity, which I intend to do.
“It’d be great to play the Kiwis, but my focus is just on delivering against France.
“I’ve got to perform, and if I do, I think I’ve got a chance.”
He is supposed to be going on a holiday with wife Helen Skelton – the BBC Countryfile presenter – and two children to Dubai.
“You’ll have to speak to the wife about that one!” said Myler. “I’m sure we’ll reschedule, though, shall we say.
“I’d have never said ‘no’ to playing for England. We can go to Dubai for the next 30 years. Opportunities like this don’t come around too often. You don’t get many second chances and I’ve been very fortunate to get one. It’s up to me to take it.”