Castleford Tigers’ Dan Fleming can’t wait to pull on a Welsh jersey again as he hopes to gain a place in the side for his side’s opening match of the Rugby League World Cup.
Wales take on Italy at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday 26th October (kick-off 4.30pm) straight after England take on Australia and the 21-year old prop can’t believe he could be a part of such a prestigious occasion.
“It’s a massive honour to have been selected in the Wales squad,” he said. “It’s unreal to think that there’s a possibility that I could be playing at the Millennium Stadium in front of tens of thousands of people.
“The last time I was there I watched Hull FC and Leeds in the Challenge Cup and hopefully I’ll be playing the next time that I’m there.
“It’s going to be an unreal atmosphere. I think that the biggest crowd I’ve played in front of was when Castleford went to Leeds Rhinos and even though you were shouting your head off in the warm up you couldn’t hear anything!
“I’m really looking forward to hopefully experiencing what it’s like at the Millennium Stadium.”
Wales will take on an Italian side full of superstars from the Australian Rugby League, who like Dan, qualify for their country via the heritage rule and he’s looking forward to the challenge of playing against some of the world’s best.
“Yes, Italy have got a lot of good players,” he said. “Both Anthony and Mark Minichiello, Terry Campese (nephew of rugby union’s David) and they have got some big forwards.
“But I think that Wales have got a lot of good players too through with the likes of Ben Flower, Craig Kopczak, Gil Dudson and Ben Evans in the forwards. There’s a lot of competition for me but that also means that there is a good opportunity to learn.”
Last year Fleming became one of the rare breed of players to make his international debut before he’d appeared for the first team of his club and despite having a good year with the Tigers, he didn’t expect to be back in the side to try to add to his first three caps.
“I hadn’t really spoken to lestyn,” Fleming remarks. “When he rang up last month I was expecting to be told that I wasn’t going to be selected, but when he said ‘congratulations you’re in’, it was a bit of a shock.
“Every day I’ve been thinking about what I need to do to be selected for the opening game in Cardiff, but there has been no expectation from myself because of the amount of good players that there are to choose from.
“My year just keeps getting better and better! I’ve had my first game for Cas, my first try for Cas and hopefully now my first World Cup game too.”
The first time that Fleming gets a chance to shine will be on Tuesday 15th October when the Welsh side take on a Welsh Select XIII in a friendly match at Parc Eirias in Colwyn Bay (kick-off 6pm).
“We go to camp on the 9th October for a week and then we go to the World Cup,” he said. “But Eliot Kear, Ben Evans, Jordan James, Jake Emmitt, Lloyd White and I have been doing a fall-out camp because we didn’t make the Super League play-offs.
“We’ve been going over to a base in Lancashire to train there for a couple of days a week, have a good blow-out and try and keep as fit as we can.
“I’ve set my sights on playing all three group games, but I’ve got to work hard to do that and gain as much experience as I can from the players I’m playing with and against.”
Wales v WRL Select XIII at Parc Eirias on Oct 15th kicks off at 6pm. Tickets are £10 seated, £5 standing. Call 01492 577900 for more information or go to www.walesrugbyleague.co.uk.