15 Oct 2022
Scotland’s Luckley eager to impress against Italy on familiar ground
The versatile forward is back in the city where he grew up for Scotland's opener
By Josh Graham
Sam Luckley will be bursting with pride when his two worlds collide as Scotland take on Italy in his hometown of Newcastle on Sunday.
The versatile forward, 26, was born in Kirkcaldy but brought up in North Shields and spent four years at Newcastle Thunder before moving to Salford in 2021.
Newcastle United fan Luckley, who is leaving the Red Devils for Hull KR in 2023, gave a nod to his Tyneside roots with an Alan Shearer-style celebration after scoring during Magic Weekend at St James’ Park in July.
He is hoping for similar success at Kingston Park in the Bravehearts’ opening game of the Rugby League World Cup.
He said: “I love representing Scotland, I was born there but everyone in my family is a Geordie other than me, so I’m doing it for myself!
“To be able to represent Scotland, the history of Scotland, the history of rugby league in Scotland and the culture is something I’m really proud of.
“I was brought up in North Shields and having it in the city of Newcastle as well, my other home, is something that makes me feel proud and privileged to be here.
“It’s something I can tick off on my bucket list.
“I’ve grabbed about 300 tickets for everyone, so I’ve got a good following coming. I think the whole town of North Shields is coming, all my family and all my mates, so I’ll be looking for them in the crowd and I think some are watching on TV as well, so I will be absolutely buzzing to see them.”
Nathan Graham’s side are missing several key players through injury with full-back Lachlan Coote, an NRL and Super League champion, and loose forward Danny Addy both ruled out but Luckley insists Scotland will not be feeling sorry for themselves.
Is there is a better feeling than pulling on that jersey, the thistle on your chest?
Nothing beats representing your roots...#Bravehearts pic.twitter.com/C4BhQiyZIC
— Scotland Rugby League ??????? (@scotlandrl) October 14, 2022
“Coote’s a quality player, just look at his career,” said Luckley.
“We will miss Danny Addy as well and we will miss Cootey, but we’ve got what we’ve got. We have strength in depth and talent in this squad.
“We will be fit and ready and we won’t be looking for any excuses about missing players, we will look after ourselves and have a go.”
With international rugby league taking a backseat during the pandemic, Luckley candidly admits Scotland are not too clued up about Italy. But with both teams in the same boat, he is expecting a tight tussle.
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He added: “We don’t know much about Italy as a team, we know more about a few individuals. [Captain] Nathan Brown, Brenden Santi, who I’ve played with at Kingston Park for Newcastle Thunder.
“That will work vice versa, as I don’t think they know much about us. We are going in with the attitude that this is going to be a tough game, so we need to go out all guns blazing.”
Italy captain Nathan Brown was drafted into the Parramatta Eels side for the NRL Grand Final after 12 weeks in the wilderness and, although that ended in defeat to the Penrith Panthers a fortnight ago, the 29-year-old lock is grateful to have gone straight into the international mix.
He said: “I was straight back into it a few days after the Grand Final which I think is a good thing, no time to muck around, straight over to the UK and getting amongst it.
“Everyone’s feeling confident, we’ve had great preparation. We’ve gelled and bonded well, everyone’s come together really nicely.
“It is a privilege to lead them out tomorrow, it’s something me and my family are very proud of, so I can’t wait and I’ll try my best to help the young kids as best as I can.
“I’ve been looking forward all year to playing in the World Cup.”
The Rugby League World Cup promises to be the biggest, best and most inclusive event in the sport’s 127-year history with men’s, women’s and wheelchair teams competing in 61 games across 21 venues throughout England. Tickets are available via rlwc2021.com/tickets