RELIEVED Leeds Rhinos star Ryan Hall admits he gained a real confidence boost when not only seeing his name in Wayne Bennett’s first England squad but also that he was one of only two specialist wingers.
For all he was once voted the world’s best winger, has a remarkable record of 26 tries in just 27 Tests and won every trophy possible with his club, the 28-year-old remained unsure if he would be selected for the Ladbrokes Four Nations that start at the end of the month.
With Leeds having such a dismal season, spending most of it at the bottom of Super League despite having won the treble in 2015, it brought uncertainty.
Furthermore, Hall was hampered by injury and played only 18 games.
However, he was named in the 24-man squad this week along with only one other winger – Huddersfield Giants’ Jermaine McGillvary – suggesting his long-held place in the national side is secure.
“When I was in the fall-out squad and training with them, after what had not been a typical year with Leeds and me missing quite a few games, I was unsure of what sort of line-up Wayne Bennett may go with,” Hall told the YEP.
“But when I read the squad and saw I was in and he’d only selected two specialist wingers, it gave me a lot more confidence straight away; he’s shown confidence in me already before even working with me.
“I know there’s other boys in the squad who can cover wing but to be one of only two recognised wingers is a real boost.”
Hall is excited to be working with 66-year-old Bennett, the revered Australian celebrated as one of the sport’s greatest ever coaches, who has taken over from Steve McNamara.
“I am actually looking forward to seeing what views he has on the game and how he will approach things,” he said.
“Obviously, he’s renowned for being a world-class coach but I’m interested to see if he has us playing an attacking game or a more conservative one.
“I’m excited to see what he can bring out of us. Whichever way he goes, he’s proved to be the best and I’m looking forward to working with him.
“The squad has a great look about it.
“It’s certainly quite diverse given the number of different teams and players. I think Wigan, with four, is the biggest and probably rightly so as they’re Grand Final winners.
“But everyone in the squad has either really excelled this year or – and I’m in this category – has plenty of international experience in the bank previously.”
Having helped England to a series success over New Zealand last autumn, five-time Grand Final winner Hall is keen to finally secure the prize that has eluded this country’s players for so long – a first international tournament success since Great Britain won the 1972 World Cup.
“We certainly showed last year we can throw punches with the big guys,” said the Leeds-born player, who made his England debut in 2009.
“We won the series 2-1 and, even though we know the Kiwis will bring a different side this year, they were still the No1-ranked side in the world.
“They were a good, strong team and we had to be at our best to beat them.
“We were on home soil, just like this one, and the win last year will go a long way to building the mentality of the boys and giving them the confidence we can win a major international tournament.
“In my time with England, we’ve never actually beaten Australia and the Kiwi series victory has reminded everyone that we can achieve that.
“It’s certainly something I want to achieve; I’ve been quite successful in my career and won most things but the two I want more than anything are a win over Australia and success in a Four Nations or World Cup.”
And Hall, who before this season rarely missed any games, is in a good position to do so.
“I should have more energy,” he said.
“The Australians arrive like that as they don’t play as many games as us but, I’m in that position now, too, and will look to take advantage of it.”