Aaron Smith has admitted that his England Knights experience ahead of Friday’s win over Jamaica made for personal new ground, as one of the more senior members of an otherwise youthful squad named by Paul Anderson.
The St Helens hooker, a 2019 Super League Grand Final winner under Justin Holbrook, was among a host of internationally untested players who featured in a comfortable rout of the Jamaicans, coming off the bench to score two tries in the closing minutes of each half in a 4-56 Knights’ victory.
Aged 25, however, Smith recognises that he is among the mature spectrum of faces included as the wider England setup continues to build towards next year’s postponed 2021 Rugby League World Cup, adding that it made for a change of pace when compared to club routines.
“I’d say I’m one of the young boys at St Helens, but in this team, I’m actually one of the older lads,” he disclosed when discussing the makeup of the current Knights crop.
“It felt different coming into camp and being a senior in the group.”
Smith has struggled to gain regular game-time under Kristian Woolf, in no small part down to the continuing evergreen presence of James Roby.
“I’ve got a good man in front of me, so it’s always hard to get in,” he freely admits with respect for the veteran number nine. Nevertheless, he showed no signs of slipping off the pace during a commanding turn in Castleford.
“It’s been a long season, but to get into camp with the boys, to get to know a few different faces, and to get to know a few different people has been good,” he adds.
“Obviously the boys who finished earlier had a few fallout sessions with the senior boys, but when we got together, it was all systems go. No-one has missed a beat.”
Smith also paid tribute to Jamaica captain Jordan Turner, who was celebrating his Testimonial on Friday night. Smith offered up his recollections of the brief time he spent alongside the ex-Saints utility man, a Grand Final winner himself in 2014, though he stressed that he wasn’t sure if he would be able recall the occasion too.
“I think it was my last year in the Academy, I actually played a reserve game with Jordan Turner at Saints, towards the back end of his time at the club. But he probably wouldn’t remember!”
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