Leeds Rhinos youngster Levi Edwards 'shocked' by England Knights call up
Nobody was more surprised than the player himself when Leeds Rhinos youngster Levi Edwards was named in the latest England Knights squad.
If selected to face Jamaica - in Jordan Turner’s testimonial game at Castleford on Friday - the 17-year-old will be capped by England’s second string before having made his Rhinos debut.
So far, Edwards’ only experience against open-age opposition was a handful of games on loan for Batley Bulldogs in the Betfred Championship this season.
He quickly made a name for himself there, is highly rated at Leeds and yesterday found himself training with the Knights against members of the full England squad at Emerald Headingley.
Edwards admitted to being “in shock” when he received his international call up. The former Batley Boys and Siddal junior was player of the match for Yorkshire in an academy Origin fixture earlier this year, but has so far missed out on Test selection at that level because of the pandemic.
“I am really, really excited,” Edwards said. “I didn’t expect it, but it’s a really good experience, getting around all the players.
“Especially for my age, to get picked for England is a really good achievement - I am loving it.
“Even if I don’t get picked [on Friday], it is all about experience.
“It was good training against England, I am enjoying all of it and taking it as it comes.”
Bulldogs boss Craig Lingard rapidly identified Edwards as a future star and the player is keen to credit Batley for getting his professional career up and running.
“I did quite well at Batley and, hopefully, I can make my Leeds debut next year,” he added.
“It was really good, I enjoyed it - because I went in confident and I was enjoying playing, I think it made me play better.
“It was good to get out and get that experience against men, just to get used to the physical side and the contact.
“It is a tough league, the Championship - there’s people who’ve played in Super League and a lot of big players. It was really physical, but I enjoyed the experience.”
Edwards played centre for Bulldogs, having been a second-rower throughout his time at scholarship and academy level. That was due to his size, but he said: “Now I’m waiting to fill out a bit more, but I enjoyed it in the centre. It was my first year there and I love it.”
Edwards was playing for Siddal under-16s little more than a year ago.
He was promoted straight from the scholarship into Rhinos’ first-team squad in pre-season and, after Friday, his next target is a Super League breakthrough.
Reflecting on 2021, he said: “It has been a good experience.
“I didn’t expect to be in the first team at my age, but I have loved it. I’ve been in the 21 [initial squad named two days before a game] a few times and I’ve got to do the warm-up before the game. That’s a good experience as well, warming up in front of all the fans.
“When I actually do make my debut, it won’t be a big shock; I’ll be used to it a bit. I am going to work hard in pre-season and push on to try and make my debut next year.”
Edwards moved into Rhinos’ elite squad at the same time as fellow 17-year-old Siddal product Morgan Gannon, who went on to play 13 first-team games this year.
“A lot of young boys are making their debuts,” Edwards said. “When you get out there you’ve just got to show how good you are. I am just waiting for my opportunity so I can show Rich I am good enough.”
Friday’s game at the Jungle is a testimonial for Castleford Tigers’ Jordan Turner.
Edwards is one of four Rhinos players in the Knights squad, alongside Gannon, Jack Broadbent and Tom Holroyd. Leeds’ Harry Newman, Kruise Leeming and Mikolaj Oledzki all trained with England’s elite group yesterday.