By Tom Manley (words) and Ed McIntyre (video)
A hard training session on a cold and windy night in Horsforth, is the way England Under 19’s Rugby League team started preparing for their upcoming international fixtures against Australia.
For Jack Welsby, who recently signed his first professional contract with St Helens, it has been whirlwind of a year which has seen him earn his first Super League appearance and an international call up.
England U19’s boss, Dave Elliot, saw Jack’s potential and gave him the chance to show what he can do at international level.
Jack said: “It’s a real honour to be honest, throughout the season I have worked my hardest and I’m glad just to get the call up and to have the opportunity to prove myself.”
Jack spent his season in the youth ranks at St Helens where he made a statement that earnt him a professional contract. He appeared in 25 matches for the youth side, scoring 25 tries, 10 goals and an overall total of 101 points across an incredible season.
In September, Jack was given the call up to the first team after an injury crises rocked the squad ahead of the fixture against Hull FC. Jack didn’t realise that his performances at youth level were getting noticed and when he got that call up to the first team.
He said: “It was surreal, wasn’t expecting any of it. Just been in and around the first team for a little bit but didn’t expect to be playing against Hull.”
Jack made his first appearance for the Saints, coming off the bench to help see his side to a comfortable 38-12 victory to lift the League Leaders’ Shield. His experience of the Super League was different to what he is used to.
He said: “I was worried about the physicality more than anything but what I found tougher was the speed of the game, so much quicker.”
“At academy you can lounge through some bits but especially at that level you can’t have a minute.”
The ground-breaking season for Jack got even better when St Helens offered him a first team contract, giving the youngster a chance to play on the big stage.
Jack said: “A dream come true, it’s what I have wanted to do since I was little and I’m grateful for the opportunity off everyone at Saints and everything they have done for me.”
When Dave Elliot selected his squad for these upcoming games, he chose the lads that have impressed throughout the course of the season but he used an unusual way to break the news.
Jack added: “Via email, Dave let us know that there was going to be a camp and some training sessions but he didn’t guarantee us a spot so we knew the work couldn’t stop yet.”
Jack and the rest of the squad have been involved in these training camps to help get the most out of them as players, with the opportunity for them all to play in their upcoming fixtures.
France, was supposed to be the first team to take on the lads. However, this game was unfortunately called off but this gave the team more time to train and bond.
Jack added: “Obviously we would love to get a run out as a team but it gives us an opportunity to work on what we need to work on, not worry about them games and focus on the Australia games coming up soon.”