Leeds Rhinos’ Keara Bennett grateful for World Cup chance with England

Leeds Rhinos’ Keara Bennett will be one of the few people relieved that the World Cup was actually postponed for a year.

The hooker, who missed the early stages of last season having undergone shoulder surgery, is the only new face to be named in Craig Richards’ 31-strong England National Performance Squad ahead of the tournament later this year.

Bennett’s injury meant she was very unlikely to have been selected had the World Cup gone ahead on time as planned, but she now has every opportunity to build on last season’s performances and earn herself her first international cap.

“It’s an unreal feeling to be involved in the squad,” said 19-year-old Bennett.

“Playing for your country is what you dream about when you start playing and it’s the big goal you always set.

“After my injury I was only really focussed on getting back playing with the Rhinos, but the more opportunity I got to play, and start, I felt I was showing some real consistency. So I’d like to think I’ve worked hard to get here.

“I probably wouldn’t have got this chance at the end of last year and I feel very lucky to be a part of what the England squad have been building towards. To be included now, with a great set of really talented girls who have been working towards this World Cup for the last few years, is a real privilege.”

Bennett is one of eight Rhinos players selected by Richards, with St Helens providing 12, York City Knights six, Wigan four and Huddersfield one, and despite being surrounded by a number of new team mates, Bennett couldn’t be happier.

“It’s really good to have a group of girls around me that I already know,” added Bennett.

“It’s quite comforting to have that when you’re going into a brand new environment, but the rest of the girls have been so welcoming and the support from the coaching staff has been great.

“It’s a really hard working squad and we all have one aim for the World Cup at the end of the year.”

England Women will begin their Rugby League World Cup campaign against Brazil at Headingley Stadium on Tuesday 1 November. A clash with Canada at Wigan’s DW Stadium on Saturday 5 November is followed by a final group stage fixture back in Leeds against Papua New Guinea on Wednesday 9 November.

The RFL are also looking to finalise a mid-season international programme which will see England Women take to the field before the World Cup.

The 31-strong squad in full: Dannielle Anderson (Leeds Rhinos), Savannah Andrade (York City Knights), Caitlin Beevers (Leeds Rhinos), Keara Bennett (Leeds Rhinos), Leah Burke (St Helens), Chantelle Crowl, (St Helens), Jodie Cunningham (St Helens), Hollie Dodd (York City Knights), Grace Field (York City Knights), Kelsey Gentles (York City Knights), Fran Goldthorp, (Leeds Rhinos), Rebecca Greenfield (Wigan Warriors), Amy Hardcastle (St Helens), Shona Hoyle (Huddersfield Giants), Amy Johnson (Leeds Rhinos), Tara Jones (St Helens), Chloe Kerrigan (Leeds Rhinos), Emma Lumley (Leeds Rhinos), Vicky Molyneux (Wigan Warriors), Carrie Roberts (St Helens), Georgia Roche (Leeds Rhinos), Emily Rudge (St Helens), Tara Stanley (York City Knights), Beth Stott (St Helens), Rachel Thompson (Wigan Warriors), Paige Travis (St Helens), Vicky Whitfield (St Helens), Naomi Williams (St Helens), Georgia Wilson (Wigan Warriors), Olivia Wood (York City Knights), Rachael Woosey (St Helens).

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