Ash Handley added to Great Britain squad

Ash Handley - handed Great Britain call
Ash Handley - handed Great Britain call

Leeds winger Ash Handley has been called up by Great Britain for their tour down under.

The 23-year-old will help plug the gaps in coach Wayne Bennett's 24-man Lions squad created by injury to Oliver Gildart and Ryan Hall.

Handley, who with 22 tries was second only to St Helens winger Tommy Makinson as Super League's leading scorer in 2019, was one of four players on stand-by - Sam Tomkins, Reece Lyne and Liam Watts were the others - from the England squad that played in the recent World Cup Nines in Sydney.

The loss of Gildart with a dislocated shoulder in the opening tour game against Tonga left Britain without a specialist centre while the dislocated kneecap sustained by Hall in last Saturday's first Test against New Zealand leaves Jermaine McGillvary as the only recognised winger.

Handley will not be considered for the second Test against the Kiwis in Christchurch on Saturday but will join up with the squad ahead of the one-off Test against Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby on November 16.

He has experience of Papua New Guinea, having been in the England Knights squad who played two internationals against the Kumuls last autumn.

Great Britain tour manager Jamie Peacock said: "We've been considering our options since losing Ryan Hall last weekend and it makes sense for Ash to come out and join us in PNG.

"He had a good season with Leeds to earn his place in the Great Britain performance squad, which means he's had all the necessary injections to come to PNG at short notice.

"He's the sort of guy who will really appreciate and benefit from the experience of joining the senior squad and he will add to our options in an area where our plans have been affected by injury."

The need to have injections is thought to have ruled St Helens' Wales winger Regan Grace out of a possible call-up.

In the meantime, second-rower Jack Hughes will play at centre on Saturday, with Zak Hardaker, who is normally a full-back, switching to the wing in a makeshift threequarter line as the Lions go in search of a series-levelling win.

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