Scotland have named seven uncapped players in their World Cup squad – including brothers Kane and Andrew Bentley of Toulouse Olympique.
They are joined by a clutch of Super League stars including Warrington three-quarter Matty Russell, Wigan winger Lewis Tierney, St Helens prop Luke Douglas, and Scotland’s most-capped player, Huddersfield’s Danny Brough, who captains the side again. They are among 14 players who retain their places from last year’s Four Nations squad.
With injuries ruling out NRL Grand Finalists Lachlan Coote (ankle) and Kane Linnett (who requires an elbow operation) of North Queensland Cowboys, Leigh Centurions hooker Liam Hood (knee operation), Penrith Panthers pivot Peter Wallace (broken ribs and hand) and long-term injured Euan Aitken (shoulder) and Billy McConnochie (ACL), coach Steve McCormack has turned to a clutch of up and coming talents from the NRL and stalwarts of the Scotland scene.
Forward James Bell of NZ Warriors, Sydney Roosters’ Jarred Anderson, and Penrith Panthers’ centre or wing Lachlan Stein are included for the first time, as are Bradford Bulls’ youngster Brandan Wilkinson and Shane Toal – who scored 28 tries for Barrow in their promotion campaign – both of whom came through the Scotland Under-19 pathway.
“It’s just reward for those players,” said McCormack. “Brandan has played nearly every week in the Championship for Bradford in difficult circumstances this year and has developed massively. And Shane has been a stand-out in League One and topped it all by scoring the try that got Barrow promoted last week. They are proof that there is talent coming through our pathway.”
It will the youngest squad Scotland have sent to a World Cup, with three 20-year-olds (Wilkinson, Anderson and Hull KR forward Kieran Moran, an uncapped member of last year’s squad), 21-year-olds Stein and Toal, and three more players aged 23 or under.
“It is a young squad but that’s exciting, too,” admitted McCormack. “When we took our youngest ever team to play in France two years ago, I said some of them would be on the plane to Australia and a lot of them will be on Sunday. Alex Walker (age 22) has been outstanding for London Broncos this season, week-in, week-out and Lewis Tierney (who has just turned 23) was one of Catalans’ best players in their big games at the end of the season.”
Although only six players are into double figures in appearances, McCormack has retained the core of the Scotland side that reached the 2013 World Cup quarter-finals, won the 2014 European Championships and held New Zealand to a draw in the Four Nations last autumn. Among them are Ben Kavanagh and Danny Addy from promoted Hull KR, London Broncos’ centre Ben Hellewell and experienced Batley full-back David Scott, who started playing league at Easterhouse Panthers.
“We’ve got a big group of players – the likes of Brough, Douglas, Addy, Matty Russell, Kav – who I know well and trust,” says McCormack. “They have always been there for Scotland and given it their all. I know they will do that again and their experience is going to be vital to help the young lads. We’re under no illusions how tough it’s going to be, but I also know it’s going to be fantastic.”
Scotland are also without centre Joe Wardle, who is remaining in the UK for family reasons having joined Castleford from NRL club Newcastle Knights, and Adam Walker, who is serving a drugs ban.