Jordan Abdull: How a confidence boost helped Hull Kingston Rovers star earn England call-up
Hull KR half-back Abdull has earned an England call-up as a reward for his strong 2021 season, which he puts down to gaining in confidence. "When I'm playing with confidence and trusting my instincts, it almost looks like I'm making it up but there is a thought process behind it," he said
By Marc Bazeley
Last Updated: 20/10/21 4:19pm
Jordan Abdull has always been a player who relies on his instincts, but the confidence gained under Hull Kingston Rovers head coach Tony Smith has helped propel him to international honours.
This week it was confirmed the 25-year-old will make his England debut against France on Saturday, an honour which comes on the back of a year where he was nominated for Man of Steel and helped Hull KR reach the Super League semi-finals against all odds.
The half-back has flourished since moving back to his home city from London Broncos ahead of the 2020 season, becoming one of the competition's stand-out players in a team where his approach personifies Smith's desire for his team to play what they see.
Jordan Abdull 2021 stats (Super League regular season)
- Tries: Four
- Assists: 13
- Attacking kicks: 75
- 40-20s: Two
- Clean breaks: Eight
- Tackle breaks: 64
England head coach Shaun Wane is likely to adopt a more structured approach for the national team, but former England U18 player Abdull is in no doubt his off-the-cuff instincts will adapt well to that too and believes it is confidence which is seeing him consistently showcase his ability.
"I've always been an instinctive player," Abdull said. "It's just when I lack confidence, I end up playing really basic and trying not to make mistakes and fiddling in and out of games.
"Sometimes when I watch my games back where I'm in that mindset, I might as well have not played because it doesn't replicate what I'm about as a player. When I'm playing with confidence and trusting my instincts, it almost looks like I'm making it up but there is a thought process behind it.
"It's just playing off instinct and even if you're in a structured team, your instincts still take over. When I play at Rovers, it almost looks like we make it up as we go, but there is a structure to it - you still have to put people in the right place and the timing of the plays.
When I'm playing with confidence and trusting my instincts, it almost looks like I'm making it up but there is a thought process behind it.
"We just aren't afraid to push the pass because we back our ability to execute. That shouldn't change too much even if I played in a structured team. It's still picking the right option, making the right decision, and backing you all the way."
Part of that confidence has come from Abdull playing in a settled team and he draws comparisons to that 2019 season with the Broncos where regularly he had Ryan Morgan and Kieran Dixon as the centre-wing partnership on the right edge while playing at stand-off.
Deployed mostly as a scrum-half this year, the former Hull FC player has had the experience of Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Ryan Hall outside him on the Robins' left most weeks and being able to learn how to get the best out of them has, in turn, helped him find new levels of consistency.
Abdull will pull on the No. 7 shirt for England in Perpignan, lining up alongside Super League winner Jonny Lomax, and Wane will no doubt be hoping to utilise his left-foot kicking game too which has created problems for opposing defences throughout 2021.
"I think it helps I'm quite a big lad with big legs and stuff, so I've got quite a natural power kick," Abdull said. "It's all just fine-tuning and practise, but that's my job.
"If I'm playing in the halves, I've got to have a good kicking game and every time I'm at training I'm sharpening the tools and putting myself in different scenarios.
"So, when it comes to game-time I've practised every scenario and I know what kick to produce and backing myself to nail every single one."
Abdull's debut comes barely a week after his Hull KR half-back partner Mikey Lewis made his bow for the England Knights, with the 20-year-old among the players who caught the eye in the 56-4 win over Jamaica at Castleford.
Despite everything both he and Rovers have achieved this year, Abdull admits the call-up for the match against France came as a surprise. Nevertheless, now he has this opportunity he is determined not to let it slip through his fingers.
"As silly as it sounds, I didn't expect it this year," Abdull said. "I was over the moon with how I played with KR this year, but not for one minute did I think I'd be having the opportunity to represent my country.
"I was hoping the chance would come at some point in my career, but it wasn't something which was in my plans for this year. I was hoping to find a bit of consistency in my game and do as well as I could for my club.
"Things come together and the more consistent you play the more these opportunities come. I just want to take the opportunity with both hands now."