Stevie Ward says England debut would be 'magical' after rollercoaster year

Leeds forward Stevie Ward
Leeds-born Stevie Ward made his debut for the Rhinos in 2012
France v England
Venue: Parc des Sports, Avignon Date: Saturday, 22 October Kick-off: 17:30 BST
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Leed Rhinos forward Stevie Ward says an England debut would be "magical" following an injury-hit 12 months and dealing with depression.

The 22-year-old, who has replaced Brett Ferres in the squad, returned in September following a knee injury.

"It would be a bizarre moment, absolute elation and a dream accomplished, putting an England shirt on," he said.

England play a warm-up game in France on Saturday before their opening Four Nations match on 29 October.

Ward was set to start a three week end-of-season road trip around the USA with Leeds team-mate Adam Cuthbertson when he found out he had been called up.

"It's been a rollercoaster year, 2016," Ward told BBC Radio 5 live. "It was great to get those four games in for the Rhinos and hopefully the fifth game could be an England international debut.

"I'm proud to be taking part and just glad to have overcome all these challenges, from an injury and everything else, it's pretty magical really."

Earlier this year, the loose forward set up an online magazine, Mantality, encouraging professional sportspeople to be honest about difficulties with depression.

"Luckily for me I've been in a pretty good spot when I've been playing and I can deal with things, but there are so many people who suffer with it [mental illness] while they are playing," Ward explained.

"It's not great that people carry on and don't speak much about it because it is this macho sport where people don't deal with it. But I'm here at the England camp and people know I've spoken out about it and it's something that needs to be looked at constantly."

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