A former cage fighter and talented North East rugby league student is gearing up to represent his country for the first time. Gateshead College student Sam Luckley has been named in a 36-strong England Academy squad. Now the prop from North Shields is in the running to play in the Academy’s first match this year against France on Friday 16th May. Next month Sam, 18, will attend a three-day training camp in Derbyshire and the academy coaches will then select their final 13 for the France game. It’s a dream come true for the former Wallsend Eagles player, who is working towards a Level 3 BTEC Sports Diploma at Gateshead College. But his career may well have taken a different turn had he pursued his original aim of becoming a professional cage fighter. Sam said: “I was really into cage fighting a few years ago and I did that for about 12-18 months. I discovered that it was a great way of channeling my aggression. “Rugby gives me that same focus and drive. I’m thrilled to have been picked for the squad and my goal now is to play in the France game.” Sam, who is currently on a one-month trial with Super League club Huddersfield Giants, will finish his BTEC course in June and is hoping that this will be the springboard to a career in his chosen sport. He has taken full advantage of the college’s Rugby League Performance Centre, where he has honed his technical playing skills and acquired general qualities such as preparation, planning and leadership skills. The course has also given him essential knowledge of sports science, health and nutrition. The college’s Rugby League Performance Centre is open to any student regardless of whether or not they are studying for a sports qualification. Students at the centre receive high-quality coaching, strength and conditioning support, nutritional advice, as well as access to physiotherapy and sports massage services. Rob Jones, rugby league coach at Gateshead College, said: “The Rugby League Performance Centre is an integral part of our Academy for Sport and has given Sam the chance to showcase his skills on the national stage. Some players who are selected for the youth and academy teams then go on to play for Super League sides. “Sam now has a great opportunity to fulfil his potential and go on to forge a worthwhile career in this industry.” Nine of the players selected in the England Academy and Youth squads are from the Rugby Football League’s regional academies in the North East and Cumbria. Dave Elliott, England Youth and Academy Manager, said: “I’m really pleased to see so many players in there from the regional academies. The boys have all worked really hard and fully deserve their place. “Their selection is an acknowledgement of the strength of the game in the North East and Cumbria. It demonstrates to professional and community clubs in both regions that if their players are good enough, they will be in the frame for international selection.” For further information, please contact Rob Jones at the Gateshead College Rugby League Performance Centre on 0191 490 2359 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.