Castleford Tigers star Oliver Holmes has set his sights on another England call at the end of the season (writes Tony Harber).
First he has to work on getting back to full fitness after undergoing a shoulder operation, but when back in first team contention the 26-year-old back row forward is determined to get back to his best form.
Impressive displays last season saw Holmes selected for the England Knights tour party to Papua New Guinea and he earned a full England cap in the game against France.
And after having a taste of international rugby league, he wants more.
He told the Express: “It was great to get a call from England, but I’ll still be looking to improve my game this year.
“I think I had a pretty successful year last year and got back to my best, but I want to push on again.
“If I do there might be some more representative honours at the end of the year, but we’ll have to wait and see.
“The England training gave me a lot of confidence. There were some really enjoyable times throughout the Lions tour and being involved in that France game as well it was something I could take a lot out of. It’s left me wanting more as well.”
Holmes went on: “This time last year I was not really thinking about England. I’d just come off the back of a tough year struggling with a knee injury so all I wanted to do was just to stay fit and play consistent rugby.
“I only missed four games last year so I felt like I’d done that and put the knee injury behind me.
“Obviously it’s frustrating now that the shoulder thing has come about, but it’s rugby league, you do a lot of work with your shoulder.
“I’m only going to miss the start of the season so hopefully I can finish off with a strong year after that and I can build on last year.”
Holmes’ call-up was further proof that playing for Castleford these days can help players’ chances of pulling on an England jersey with several players from the current squad having sampled international rugby league in the past 18 months.
He added: “It shows you can get international honours playing for Cas, which has not always been the case.
“There’s a lot of us who’ve now done it in recent years – Mike McMeeken, Michael Shenton, Luke Gale, myself and Adam Milner. I think Paul McShane is well within a shout and is capable of playing international and Greg Eden’s close.
“Greg Minikin and Jake Trueman should have come on tour, but had injuries and there’s a lot of people pushing for England spots.
“It shows how far the club’s come. I’ve been here since Terry Mattison’s days and through the dark days of nearly going into administration so to see where we’ve come from it’s been a massive journey. A lot of hard work’s gone in on and off the field, behind the scenes and everybody’s got to take a part in that.”