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Andy Ackers: ‘It wasn’t a great trip but I worked hard’ | England rugby union team


For most members of England’s World Cup squad, remembering where they were the last time the tournament was held on these shores nine years ago is a simple task. Andy Ackers, however, needs a moment to refresh his memory, and that’s understandable.

“I can’t even think that far – how old would I have been?” asks Ackers on the eve of his test debut. The answer to his question is 19, and while most of his team-mates in England’s Group A match against France on Saturday would have been full-time professionals just starting their Super League careers, Ackers to the top of international rugby league is somewhat different.

At 19, he was released from the club’s academy in his hometown, Wigan. He was given a second opportunity at Warrington but was eventually let go by Wolves as well, leaving him with no choice but to go part-time. “I was definitely working with my dad somewhere at the last World Cup,” he says.

“I was released by Wigan when I was 18 and then went to Warrington but by then I would have been working full time and training one night. If someone had told me nine years ago that I would be playing a World Cup at home, I would obviously have ripped your hands off.

Ackers joined lower league side Swinton which marked the start of a remarkable career which took him to the capital with the London Broncos and across the Atlantic with the he Toronto Wolfpack team that won promotion to the Super League in 2019. It was a long, unconventional road back to the top for Ackers, but within months of Toronto’s Super League debut, Covid-19 hit and the Wolfpack eventually went bankrupt.

His form for Toronto had not gone unnoticed, however, and after their demise Salford offered Ackers a path back to the Super League. He has since become one of the competition’s most notable prostitutes and those watching the 28-year-old this year weren’t surprised his form earned him a first England Cup call-up. world. We are far from the world of waking up at 5:30 a.m. and the laborious life on a construction site.

“It hasn’t been a nice trip,” smiles Ackers. “But I worked like crazy, I didn’t give up and I persevered. It’s a bit of a story, isn’t it? If I had continued when I was younger, I might have done it much sooner, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. I would not change my story and my journey for the world.

Quick Guide

England vs France: probable teams

Spectacle

England Tomkins Young, Watkins, Farnworth, Hall; Williams, Sneyd; Burgess, McIlorum, Thompson, Whitehead, Bateman, Radley. Exchange Oledzki, Ackers, Hill, Pearce-Paul.

France Escare; Romano, Langi, Laguerre, Yaha; Mourgues; Leg, Dezaria, Da Costa, Belmas, Jullien, Seguier, Garcia. Exchange Pélissier, Sangare, Goudemand, Le Cam.

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“I was doing everything you could think of in terms of work, selling dogs, working with my dad on a construction site and working in general. But that life wasn’t for me, it made me more hungry and desperate to go out there and get back to rugby full time. I got up at 5:30am, finished at 5pm, worked out at night and trained until 9pm in freezing cold. No, it wasn’t for me.

Ackers was left out for England’s comprehensive victory over Samoa last weekend. But after impressing in the warm-up win over Fiji, the hooker will earn his first Test cap against France in front of a sold-out crowd at Bolton this weekend. That alone would be a special occasion, but Ackers has one more reason to celebrate.

“Saturday is my little boy’s third birthday and he’s from Bolton so it will be a special occasion and another story to tell,” he said. “I think I’ve already requested around 10 tickets for my family and friends and the requests keep coming in. They’re all coming out of the woodwork! They don’t come to see me when it’s Salford – that’s only because this is England, but it will be a very special and very proud day.

Andy Ackers celebrates Salford's fourth try against Huddersfield in the Super League playoffs
Andy Ackers celebrates Salford’s fourth try against Huddersfield in the Super League playoffs. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA

The manner in which England secured victory over Samoa last week changed the narrative of their World Cup chances. The underdogs finished top of Group A only a week ago, wins over the French and debuting Greeks will confirm top spot and an easier path to the final. Internally though, Ackers insists the team have not faltered despite being called off by some before the game against Samoa.

“Before it all started people wrote us off, but this is the most confident team I’ve ever been involved with,” Ackers said. “We know what we are capable of, every player knows what they can do, just like Shaun [Wane]. I think we’ll get the job done too. Better to go after people with a result like Samoa, when everyone was writing us off. This team knows very well what we can do.

theguardian

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