Six Leeds Rhinos Academy aces aiming to make history against touring Australian Schoolboys

LEEDS RHINOS chief executive Gary Hetherington hopes to see England Academy make history against the Australian Schoolboys tonight '“ with help from what he feels is his club's best crop of youngsters since the famous Golden Generation.

Leeds Rhinos chief Gary Hetherington with former England Academy ace and now Rhinos director of rugby, Kevin Sinfield. PIC: Tony Johnson

During their 40 year existence, the Australian Schoolboys have only lost a series to England’s Academy three times, firstly in 2002, then again two years later and, finally, 2010.

However, having fallen in Saturday’s opener at Leigh, the tourists are under jeopardy once more at Emerald Headingley this evening.

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Hetherington will be an intrigued spectator, not least because Leeds have a raft of talents ready to play on home soil.

Muizz Mustapha. PIC: Courtesy Leeds Rhinos/Stephen Gaunt/Touchlinepics.com

“We had six players playing last weekend and have seven on Friday,” he said, the only unused Rhino Loui McConnell having been called up onto the bench in one of just two changes.

“I can’t ever remember us having such a big involvement.

“You’ve got to go back to the days of Danny McGuire, Rob Burrow, Kevin Sinfield and all that group who all came through and were promoted into the Rhinos first team.

“I do think this is the best group we’ve had in 20 years.

Academy ace, Tom Holroyd. PIC: Leeds Rhinos RLFC

“Even though we’ve had some outstanding players graduate through our Academy since that Golden Generation, there’s never been as big a group as this. When you consider, too, three of last year’s Academy players – Jack Walker, Mikolaj Oledzki and Cameron Smith – played very little Academy as they did so well in the first team, it just shows what an encouraging position we’re in.

“It’s testament to the production line we have in place and the people who helped create it.

“Without putting too much pressure on, every one of them looks every bit a Super League player in-waiting; they all have a terrific attitude, determination and work ethic, all the criteria you need to help succeed.”

Leeds centre Harry Newman, who scored a try in last week’s 14-8 win, and club-mates Callum McLelland, Corey Johnson, Muizz Mustapha, Tom Holroyd and Owen Trout are all retained in Dave Elliott’s matchday 17.

Second-row Trout is promoted to the starting line-up after Wigan’s James McDonnell limped off at Leigh while St Helens’ winger Tom Nisbet replaces Huddersfield Giants winger Louis Senior in the other change. England will hope history repeats itself as Headingley was the venue when they defeated the then all-conquering Australian Schoolboys for the first time 16 years ago. Back then, Rhinos had five players involved, including Ryan Bailey and Richie Mathers who both went on to win Super League Grand Finals with the club.

Hetherington admitted: “It’d be great, not only for England Academy but the English game as a whole if they can win again. It’d be a real boost for the sport and I hope all rugby league fans turn up to cheer on what would be a historic success.”

Castleford and England loose-forward Adam Milner – the victorious 2010 Academy captain – presented the squad with their shirts on Thursday evening.