Matthew Shaw (TotalRL Editor)
It’s to be expected that any England squad reveal will be met with disapproval by the majority due to the widespread opinions we have on the game.
But overall I’m not particularly surprised with Wayne Bennett’s 24-man squad for the upcoming event, and I think England have a strong squad.
Kevin Brown’s inclusion is the most questionable. Not only has he had an underwhelming season at Warrington, England already have three halfbacks that are above him in the pecking order in Luke Gale, Gareth Widdop and George Williams.
With Stefan Ratchford also in the squad, Brown’s inclusion doesn’t seem necessary as there is enough cover. Instead, I would have selected another recognised back.
Sam Tomkins would have been my personal pick. Although some argue he has regressed as a player, I still believe he is England’s best fullback behind Zak Hardaker.
Australian or not, Chris Heighington’s inclusion at the age of 35 is another debatable call. In Liam Watts, Bennett had the opportunity to select an in-form prop who has delivered in big games for Hull FC this year, but has instead opted for a player whose international career will surely end after the World Cup, and it’s questionable whether he will play anyway.
One of the most notable facts was that Castleford had just two players in the squad, despite their dominant year. Paul McShane can feel hard done by after being pipped by James Roby, although that is perhaps down to the style of play Bennett is looking for.
Greg Eden’s exclusion was notable, although it could again be argued his style of play again does not suit the international game.
For Shenton, however, his omission is somewhat harsh. With only two recognised centres, it appears one of Ben Currie or John Bateman will be seen as third choice centre. If that proves to be the case, surely having a recognised centre, one who made the Dream Team this year no less, would have been the obvious option?
A shoutout also goes to Stevie Ward, who has arguably outshone some of his peers selected ahead of him.
But regardless of that, Wayne Bennett has selected who he deemed fit. Only time will tell if he’s made the correct call.
Aaron Bower (TotalRL Writer)
The only surprise with the England squad, for me at least, is that we’re all surprised.
For nearly two years now, Wayne Bennett has been controversial with his selection policies for England. Heritage player issues have never gone away, rightly or wrongly, and there have always been some guys in there who many feel are undeserving of a call-up.
But in all honesty, barring the odd one or two picks, I find it hard to argue with the majority of the squad.
It looks particularly top-heavy on forwards and light on outside backs, but the nature of the sides England will be playing throughout this tournament means that forwards aplenty are the only real way to go.
I thought Chris Heighington went well enough against Samoa to convince Bennett that he deserved an extended run in this year’s World Cup. Again, it’s not really about what we think – it’s about what the man himself thinks.
Similarly, I had a gut feeling he would stick with the wingers which have served him well so far. Ryan Hall’s record at international level is incredible, and Jermaine McGillvary has adapted to the world stage pretty well, in my opinion.
With Bennett’s plan to go heavy in the forwards, it always meant some talent favoured by fans in this country would miss out, sadly. Of the ones that have, Castleford captain Michael Shenton is perhaps the one I feel most sorry for. I think he’d have been a brilliant addition to the squad – but it’s clear that beyond Mark Percival and Kallum Watkins, the next centres off the rank are Ben Currie and John Bateman.
Can we win the World Cup? Of course we can. Will we? Time will tell.