MICHAEL LAWRENCE is looking forward to linking up with the England Knights training squad a week on Sunday and promised: “It’s a great incentive.”
The powerful winger played junior levels for England and believes the new set-up under international coach Steve McNamara will inspire him and plenty of other young players in Super League in coming years.
The Knights are basically a stepping stone to the England Elite squad and Lawrence has been joined in the training group by Galpharm colleagues Dale Ferguson, Jermaine McGilvray, Larne Patrick and Shaun Lunt.
Lawrence – all set for tonight’s showdown with Super League leaders Harlequins at The Stoop – explained: “Steve McNamara came to the club about a month ago and told us he would be picking two squads, which was something for everyone to aim for.
“He said there would be meetings every few months or so to enable everyone to get to know each other and to build that squad mentality and environment.
“It’s bound to help with bonding when the international fixtures come around, giving people a better opportunity to gel, and I think it’s a really good idea for England.”
Lawrence added: “I played for the Under 17s and 18s when I was coming through a few years ago, but then there was nothing in place between that and the senior side – so people were having to wait five and six years to see if they could make the senior side.
“Now there’s the Knights squad which is the next step for people like me. When Steve McNamara came to talk to us I thought it was a reasonable target to try and get selected and it’s happened, which is great.
“It was a very proud moment for me and my family when I found out and, obviously, it would be nice to represent the Elite team one day.
“This call-up is a great incentive for all of us. It is a stepping stone and it makes you realise that if you keep playing well in Super League and doing your absolute best for the Giants, it can bring rewards like this.”
So what are his hopes for the Giants and for his own campaign?
“We don’t want to go backwards from what we achieved last year,” said the academy product from Newsome Panthers.
“The aim is to keep improving and finish as high up the table as possible.
“We don’t tend to look any further than the next game but, ultimately, we want to take things further than last season and that means challenging for the big prize.
“For me, I just want to keep improving, and this Knights selection really helps.
“I was happy with how I played against Warrington and Hull – I had a shocking game against Castleford having been poked in the eye early on – and I’m glad the pressure is off on the tryscoring front and I don’t have to contemplate the ‘nudey run.’ I haven’t set a target for tries, I just want to build on last season and do my job for the team.”
Negotiations are underway with possible international opposition for the Knights in 2011 while England are looking ahead to a home Four Nations involving Australia, New Zealand and Wales, as well as a mid-season international in June.
England Knights: Joe Arundel, John Walker (both Castleford Tigers); Ryan Atkins, Chris Riley (both Warrington Wolves); Jodie Broughton, Stefan Ratchford, Matty Smith (all Salford City Reds); Josh Charnley, Liam Farrell, Darrell Goulding, Stefan Marsh, Lee Mossop (all Wigan Warriors); Paul Clough, Jonathan Lomax, Scott Moore (all St Helens); James Donaldson, Elliott Whitehead (both Bradford Bulls); Dale Ferguson, Michael Lawrence, Jermaine McGillvary, Larne Patrick, Shaun Lunt (all Huddersfield Giants); Luke Gale (Harlequins), Kallum Watkins (Leeds); Joe Westerman (Hull FC).