England Knights and Jamaica return to international action when they clash at Mend-A-Hose Jungle on Friday (kick-off 7.45pm); the match doubles up as a testimonial for Castleford and Jamaica player Jordan Turner
By Sky Sports Rugby League
Last Updated: 14/10/21 4:58pm
England Knights return to action for the first time in two years on Friday evening when they take on Jamaica at Castleford’s Mend-A-Hose Jungle.
The match, which doubles up as a testimonial for Castleford Tigers and Jamaica three-quarter Jordan Turner, is an opportunity for some of Super League’s most promising players to have the opportunity to test themselves against international opposition.
It will be the first time Jamaica have played since a 38-6 defeat to the Knights at Emerald Headingley in 2019 as well, with the team containing a mix of Super League, Championship and League One players as the Reggae Warriors build towards their debut at the postponed Rugby League World Cup.
Here, we take a look at what to keep an eye on when the teams face off on Friday night (kick-off 7.45pm)…
England’s eyes on 2025
Knights head coach Paul Anderson has named a 20-man squad for this clash, which has an average age of just 21 and includes five teenagers.
Not only that, but 10 of the squad have come through the England academy system and it is hoped this crop of players will form the backbone of the squad representing the national team in the 2025 Rugby League World Cup.
Among those getting their first opportunity with the Knights is Wigan Warriors second row Kai Pearce, the former Croydon Hurricanes amateur who has made a big impact on Super League in the 19 appearances he has made for the Cherry and Whites since making his debut last year.
The 20-year-old has long been compared to one of rugby’s superstars by his older brother Kameron, who plays for London Skolars, and is excited to get his chance to show what he can do in an England shirt.
“He’s been saying that since I was young, that I’d be the next Sonny Bill Williams,” Pearce-Paul said.
“I like to offload, a similar style to Sonny Bill. He’s a great, great player – someone I looked up to when I was young.
“Coming in as a young boy, I never expected to get so many games. My coach believed in me and threw me into a situation where it was all new, playing with the big boys, but I felt like I went well.”
🗣️ “It’s probably the best gym I’ve ever trained in.”
🏋️🏉 ‘World class’ facilities are helping the England Knights prepare for tomorrow’s clash with Jamaica.
🙌 Huge thanks to @leedsbeckett for hosting the team this week!
— England Rugby League (@England_RL) October 14, 2021
Part of the build-up to this match has seen the Knights train with the full England squad at Headingley as Shaun Wane’s men prepare to face France in a Test match in Perpignan on Saturday, October 23.
That field session, Anderson believes, will prove vital in helping the players when it comes to the time they make the step up to senior international honours.
“The Knights is about developing talent, preparing well and competing hard,” Anderson said. “My job is to prepare players for the next step, the senior international team, and the connectivity between the two squads is massive.
“Through the Knights programme we’re investing in the future of England Rugby League, and although we’ve had a few injuries and promotions to the senior set up it has created opportunities for others to come in and show what they can do.”
Jamaica aim to keep building
Officially classed as the ‘home’ team for Friday’s contest, this is the first of two internationals for Jamaica in 2021, with a first-ever Test match against Scotland at Featherstone’s Millennium Stadium on October 24 following this one.
Both matches will provide vital game-time for the Reggae Warriors, who were preparing to face 2008 winners New Zealand, Ireland and Lebanon in the pool stages of the 2021 Rugby League World Cup before the tournament was put back a year.
As well as testimonial man Turner, the squad contains Huddersfield Giants pair Ashton Golding and Michael Lawrence, and another former Super League player in York City Knights winger Ben Jones-Bishop.
Golding and Lawrence could find themselves up against one of their Giants team-mates in Will Pryce, who has Jamaican ancestry himself, and the 18-year-old son of former Great Britain international Leon is relishing the prospect of taking on Jamaica for several reasons.
“My dad’s grandad is Jamaican so he could have qualified for them and unfortunately I just miss out there,” Pryce, who has shown plenty of glimpses of his potential for Huddersfield in 2021, said.
“I’m going to give Bruno [Lawrence] some – I’m going to try to pester him and Ashton and see what I can get out of them! We’ll see what happens.”
Also included in the 21-man is Abevia McDonald, who played in the country’s domestic competition for Liguanea Dragons and Excelsior Community College but has since moved to the UK to join London Skolars.
Reggae Warriors head coach Romeo Monteith, who has done much to help the development of the sport in the Caribbean nation, is now looking forward to seeing how his side fare against England’s up-and-coming players.
“We will see some new faces and try some new combinations,” Monteith said. “It will be a tough clash and hopefully gets us ready for the following week’s full international against Scotland at Featherstone.
“We have several players missing due to injuries picked up at the back end of the English season and the sport has yet to resume on the island but that has opened the doors for others to make an impact.”
Jamaica: Greg Johnson (Batley Bulldogs), Jordan Turner (Castleford Tigers), Kadeem Williams (Coventry Bears) Jon Magrin, Keenen Tomlinson, (both Dewsbury Rams), Danny Bravo, Ross Peltier, (both Doncaster), James Woodburn-Hall (Halifax Panthers) Ashton Golding, Michael Lawrence (both Huddersfield Giants), Aaron Jones-Bishop, Jordan Andrade, Jy-mel Coleman (all Hunslet), Mo Agoro, (Keighley Cougars), Jacob Ogden (London Broncos), Abevia McDonald, (London Skolars), Izaac Farrell, Joel Farrell (both Sheffield Eagles), Joe Brown (Workington Town), Ben Jones-Bishop (York City Knights), Christopher Ball (Unattached).
England Knights: Matty Ashton (Warrington Wolves), Jack Broadbent (Leeds Rhinos), Lewis Dodd (St Helens), Levi Edwards (Leeds Rhinos), Matthew English (Huddersfield Giants), Morgan Gannon (Leeds Rhinos), Sam Halsall (Wigan Warriors), Tom Holroyd (Leeds Rhinos), George Lawler (Hull KR), Matthew Lees (St Helens), Mikey Lewis (Hull KR), Ellis Longstaff (Warrington Wolves), James McDonnell, Liam Marshall, Kai Pearce-Paul (all Wigan Warriors), Will Pryce (Huddersfield Giants), Aaron Smith (St Helens), Danny Walker (Warrington Wolves, captain), Oliver Wilson (Huddersfield Giants), Connor Wrench (Warrington Wolves).