A young rugby league star has earned his first call-up to England’s Youth squad, with a series of mouth-watering matches ahead.
Sixteen-year-old Jake Woods has been named as one of 35 players within the national ranks at this level for 2014.
Full details of this year’s fixtures have yet to be confirmed, but England Youth will play a two-match Test series in France at Easter, as well as matches against Wales over the coming months.
A delighted Jake, from Alnwick, said: “It is really good to be called up to the England Youth squad.
“It is my first call-up for England and I am proud of myself.
“I wasn’t expecting it.”
Jake is currently studying for his GCSEs at Alnwick’s Duchess’s Community High School.
He did play for the town’s rugby club when he was younger, but it was the game of rugby league which really caught his imagination.
The teenager, who tends to play full-back, is part of the North East Thunder Regional Academy and plays for Cramlington Rockets.
Jordan Robinson, coach of Cramlington Rockets U16s, paid tribute to Jake’s achievement.
He said: “Jake has worked really hard this season on improving all aspects of his game.
“It is a just reward for the time and commitment he has put into developing his rugby-league skills.
“Everyone at the Rockets is proud of his achievement and wish him well for the training and games.”
Jake joined up with the squad in Sheffield recently to start benchmark testing and to meet his new colleagues.
England Youth and Academy manager, Dave Elliott, believes the squad demonstrates the depth and quality of talent that is emerging at this level through the player development pathways at Super League club and Rugby Football League Regional Academy levels.
Andy Kelly, England regional performance coach, added: “This is a fantastic achievement for Jake and he knows how hard he will need to work within the environment he is going into and he will be rubbing shoulders with the best young talent Super League and England has to offer.
“It is a massive fillip for the rest of the North East Thunder players and other Regional Academies as it lets the professional game know we have some great rugby league talent in our region.”
England has also announced its Academy squad, which will play Australian high schools this year.