A Proud Heritage And A Home World Cup: Rhinos Skipper Leeming Inspired To Shine

The Leeds Rhinos man is preparing as the Combined Nations take on England
13:30, 16 Jun 2022

When else would I get chance to play for Ellery Hanley? 

For Leeds Rhinos captain Kruise Leeming, this weekend’s international between England and the Combined Nations All Stars could prove one of the most significant games in his career.

The 26 year-old, from Lombana in Swaziland is bursting with pride at representing his family and Swazi heritage. 

He is also humbled to play for one of rugby league’s all-time greats in Ellery Hanley, coach of the All Stars. 

And thirdly, perhaps most importantly of all, he is desperate to prove England head coach Shaun Wane wrong for leaving him out, and win that spot back in time for the World Cup in October.

“When big Ellery rings you up and says ‘I want you to play for me’ you don’t say no do you?,” Leeming reveals of how his inclusion in the Combined Nations squad came about.

“It is a massive opportunity and I’m so honoured to be able to play for him. When else would I get chance to play for Ellery Hanley? Hopefully I can put in a really good performance in honour of him.”

The Leeds skipper is talking to The Sportsman from their training camp in Haydock, ahead of an international fixture that has been knocked by many, but for Leeming represents a source of huge pride.

“To represent Swaziland, where I was born, is really close to my heart. To make my mum really proud is something that I always set out to do.”

All of Leeming’s side of the family are British and live in England, his father’s country of birth. His mum though has no other family of her own in Britain, and that is a huge motivational factor for Leeming when he steps out to represent her this weekend.

“Every Super League game I am representing the English side of my family and the Leeming name, but for me to be wearing the Swazi flag on my arm this week will be massive for Swaziland and the people back home and put a massive smile on my mum’s face.

“We talk in camp about representing different cultures, backgrounds and countries. You can feel it as you walk into camp. It is not just a normal fixture. People really do want to represent where they come from and that is really close to some people’s hearts and that’s what makes the game so passionate as people want to make their families proud back home.”

But in rugby terms, it is the chance to prove a point to a Shaun Wane that carries the most significance. 

With Wane recalling his trusted former Wigan hooker Michael McIlorum who last played for England nine years ago and has since played for Ireland in between, while indicating the Catalans star is central to his World Cup plans, Leeming - like Warrington’s Daryl Clarke - may already be running out of time to force a Wane’s hand. 

I understand that England’s coaching team are confident they will be able to tempt St Helens legend James Roby out of international retirement for the World Cup, which means for Leeming, Clarke, and Castleford’s Paul McShane it is pretty much now or never to hit form.

“I was disappointed not to get in the England squad,” Leeming admits.

“I will be in the shop window and I do want to be in that World Cup squad at the end of the year. Shaun Wane has spoken to me and told me what I need to work on.”

That conversation will have focused on Leeming’s defence, and his England prospects will no doubt have suffered with the Rhinos abysmal start to the Betfred Super League season. Leeds now look have turned a corner, and Leeming hopes his own form will continue to do so too.

And what of the concept itself, loved by those called on to represent the Combined Nations, but a cause of logistical frustration for the coaching staff, and mocked by many fans who would rather see England lining up against an established international team in World Cup year?

“I 100% want this concept to continue and for it to get bigger and grow,” Leeming adds.

“It has improved from last year and it could be a massive fixture for everyone around the world.”

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