James Bentley wants to make both sides of his family proud this year by representing his boyhood club Leeds and his Irish heritage.
The 24-year-old back-rower has joined his hometown club Leeds on a two-year deal ahead of the 2022 season from champions St Helens.
Bentley told Love Rugby League: “I’m buzzing to be a Leeds player. Obviously it is the team I have grown up supporting on that South Stand as a kid.
“To get the opportunity to come here and play for them was something I couldn’t really turn down.
“As a kid I used to run around my garden pretending to be like Siny (Kevin Sinfield) and (Danny) McGuire so to get the opportunity to play for them is pretty special for me and my family.
“My dad is made up that I’ve signed for Leeds, he’s not stopped talking about it! I think it is the first time he’s ever had a shirt with my name on it. It’s only took him six years! My family is made up for me.”
Bentley joined St Helens from Bradford ahead of the 2018 campaign. He enjoyed four seasons with Saints, winning three Super League titles.
He added: “I loved my time at Saints. I had great success there so that obviously brings great memories.
“I probably didn’t get to end my time with them the way I would’ve liked due to injury but to be a part of that team and to see the boys do that was really special.”
James Bentley hoping to make family proud
Bentley was born and raised in Leeds but is of Irish heritage through his mother’s side, who hail from Bangor in Northern Ireland.
He made his international debut for Ireland in 2018 and has won five caps for the Wolfhounds so far.
When asked if he would like to play for Ireland in this year’s World Cup, Bentley replied: “Yeah. Obviously that is at the end of the year and I’m focusing on Leeds at the minute but I wouldn’t turn down an opportunity to play in the World Cup. It would be a great opportunity.
“My mum’s Irish and her parents are too. It was pretty special when I made my debut for Ireland. Sadly my grandad passed away before my debut so he didn’t get to see it but he would’ve been proud of me. My debut was over in Ireland and it was a nice time over there. All of my mum’s side of the family are from over there so it was pretty special.
“I’ve not really talked much about it but it was really special for me. I was really proud to represent my family, especially my grandad.
“He would come over and watch me quite a bit when I was younger. He would always ask me about it. Sadly he never got to see me play professionally. I think my last game with him there when I was around 16 when I was at Featherstone. It was really special knowing I was representing my family when I played for Ireland.
Bentley admitted his mum would love it if he made the Irish World Cup squad, saying: “She would be made up. I’ll be able to hear her Irish accent cheering me on from the stands!”