Andy Ackers went from 12-hour days labouring with his dad to starting in his home World Cup in nine years… and with his Test debut in sight, the hooker insists he will represent his country ‘with pride’ and help England build on their fine start
- Andy Ackers will make his Test debut for England against France on Saturday
- The 28-year-old admitted he has ‘a bit of a story’ in relation to his rugby journey
- He was working on a building site with his dad during the last home World Cup
- After his release by Wigan, he did not become a professional again until 2016
From labouring for his dad, to playing in a home World Cup for England. As Andy Ackers puts it ahead of his improbable Test debut: ‘It’s a bit of a story, isn’t it?’
The 28-year-old will start as hooker for Shaun Wane’s side against France at the University of Bolton Stadium on Saturday. But before he wins his first cap, Ackers is reminded of where he was the last time the World Cup was held here in 2013.
‘I was working full time with my dad on a building site,’ he recalls. ‘I was getting up at 5.30am, finishing at 5pm, then training in the evening until 9pm in the freezing cold.
Andy Ackers will make his England Test debut against France in the Rugby League World Cup
The 28-year-old hooker made his international debut in England’s friendly win of Fiji recently
‘It definitely wasn’t for me, but it made me hungrier and desperate to get off there. I would have snatched your hand off if you told me nine years ago I’d be playing in a home World Cup.’
Back in 2013, Ackers had recently been released by his home team Wigan and was starting again in the academy at Warrington. He then joined Championship part-timers Swinton Lions and did not become a full-time professional until he signed for London Broncos in 2016 aged 23.
After moving on for a spell at Toronto Wolfpack, Ackers has now settled at Salford, where an outstanding season with the Super League semi-finalists saw him earn a surprise call-up in Wane’s 24-man World Cup squad.
Ackers has settled down with Salford after having to fight to return as a professional player
‘It’s not been a sweet journey,’ admits Ackers. ‘But I’ve worked my socks off. I’ve not given up and I’ve persevered. I wouldn’t change my story and my journey for the world.’
Ackers made his first England appearance in a 50-0 friendly win over Fiji a fortnight ago, scoring a try. He was left out of the squad for last week’s 60-6 rout of Samoa in the World Cup opener, but will get the chance to shine as Wane rotates his team to face France.
‘I’m proud enough to wear the England training gear let alone the jersey itself,’ says Ackers. ‘So when I get my opportunity to play in that shirt, I’m going to represent my country with pride. I’m going to do everything I can to keep my position in the team.
Ackers said he will ‘represent his country with pride’ as he starts as hooker for England
England are on the verge of quarter-final qualification after hammering Samoa in their opener
‘It’s my little lad Reid’s third birthday on Saturday and he’s from Bolton so it’ll be a special occasion and another story. I think I’ve asked for about 10 tickets and the requests are still coming in now. They’re all coming out of the woodwork. They don’t come watch me when it’s Salford… it’s only because it’s England!’
The hosts are huge favourites to win on Saturday and seal their spot in the quarters, with just Greece left to play in Group A next week. A potential final at Old Trafford against Australia or New Zealand on November 19 is in sight.
‘Before it all kicked off there were people writing us off, but this is the most confident team I’ve ever been involved in,’ adds Ackers. ‘We know what we’re capable of, every player knows what they can do and so does Shaun. I think we’ll get the job done too.’