Although it’s strictly about club matters this Saturday when Hull FC take on Warrington, you can safely assume the new England coach will have one eye on what’s happening from the other side of the world.
The chance to shine in a big game like the Challenge Cup final could be the thing that convinces Bennett one player is worth a spot in his squad for this year’s Four Nations: and there are some intriguing head-to-head battles which could be straight shootouts for one of the 23 places in his group. Here’s three of the very best: but who will come out on top?
Jamie Shaul v Stefan Ratchford
The first big all-English battle comes at the back of the field; with one man who was being seriously talked up for England honours this year against another who has a chance to impress on Saturday. It’s been a while since Stefan Ratchford pulled on the England shirt, but his versatility and a clean slate may both work in his favour in the eyes of Bennett, particularly with a good performance on Saturday.
As for Jamie Shaul, if he manages to shine in the big-game environment Wembley provides, it will be another big tick in the box in regards to his England credentials. Shaul’s consistency has been arguably his biggest plus point this year – if he produces a stellar performance at Wembley, it will only enhance the calls from people to get him in the international setup.
Scott Taylor v Chris Hill
There’s a fair argument to suggest both of these men deserve their place in Wayne Bennett’s 23-man squad come the end of the year – but this Saturday gives both the chance to go a long way towards securing an international call-up this year. Hill’s form as captain of Warrington has once again been outstanding and he has so often shone in the big games in the past, with an England call-up more likely for him, you suspect.
As for Taylor, he has experience of winning at Wembley in the past during Wigan’s double-winning campaign of 2013, but victory with Hull and the opportunity to end the club’s hoodoo at the national stadium creates a major opportunity for the prop to shine amidst such pressure. If he does, is he a shoe-in for England?
Daryl Clark v Danny Houghton
Arguably the most exciting and anticipated all-English match-up on the field comes at hooker. There are two in-form English hookers who missed out on selection last year against New Zealand, but both will feel they have a fighting chance this year. Warrington have Daryl Clark, the Man of Steel from two years ago who will be seeking a recall to the national side after omission last year.
Clark’s form has been exceptional and is worthy of discussion when it comes to naming Bennett’s squad – but so too is Houghton’s. Long considered one of the most unfortunate players to miss out on England honours, the Hull vice-captain has a fine opportunity to showcase his talents in arguably the sport’s biggest game this weekend.