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“It came through on Whatsapp” – Leeds Rhinos star reveals Shaun Wane surprise

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Shaun Wane named his England squad yesterday and it saw some surprise names included with six possible debutants named, including Leeds Rhinos’ James McDonnell.

The second-rower has actually represented Ireland before and played for them at the World Cup in 2022 but he’s told BBC Radio Leeds that a chance to represent England is worth the ‘risk’ to potentially not represent Ireland again.

McDonnell was one of three Leeds Rhinos players to be called up alongside Harry Newman and Ash Handley, both men having seemingly passed through concussion protocol and been passed fit for selection. The full squad can be seen here.

The 24-year-old McDonnell has played 38 times since making his move to Leeds Rhinos ahead of the start of the 2023 campaign and he has been one of the club’s most consistent performers, however, he has revealed that the call-up was a “big surprise”.

Quiz: Can you name all these former Leeds Rhinos players?

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Leeds Rhinos forward shocked at England call-up

Speaking to BBC Radio Leeds to react to the news of his call-up, James McDonnell explained that it was a “surreal” moment.

He said: “It was a surprise, a big surprise, but obviously a welcome one. It was a little bit surreal when I got the call.

“Shaun Wane rang me. It just came through on Whatsapp saying Shaun Wane was ringing so that was a bit of a surprise, but yeah, we spoke on the phone for a little bit and obviously I told him I was completely on board.”

The Wigan-born player then explained the huge honour it was for him to be handed a call-up, claiming it had come far sooner than he expected.

The Leeds Rhinos’ man said: “I think for probably every English player that’s probably like the ultimate goal isn’t it? It was on the radar, not sure how soon I anticipated it, I definitely didn’t anticipate it this time round but like I said it was a much-welcomed surprise and definitely a huge, huge honour.

“From that conversation with Waney, he obviously said that this experience will do me good. He said it was a reward for the work I’ve been doing at Leeds and the season that we’ve had.

“I’m not entirely sure about game time and the selection process, but I’m just happy to be around the squad and be up for contention. Then, obviously, heading to the squad on Wednesday, show a bit of what I’m about and then, obviously, the selection is up to Waney and we’ll see where we go from there.”

France have named an incredibly strong side for the game as well with Catalans Dragons releasing 13 players as well as a player being shipped in from the NRL.

Meanwhile, Wane’s squad has actually been subject to a lot of criticism online with one fan even believing the team to be packed with “bang-average players”.

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