England coach Shaun Wane has been dealt two major setbacks to his World Cup plans in the past week with the loss of both Alex Walmsley and Harry Newman for the tournament.
Prop Walmsley made his debut in 2017, went on to play in that year’s World Cup final, and has been one of the country’s leading forwards ever since.
He appeared one of the certainties for a place in Wane’s line-up until a foot injury sustained last month put paid to his hopes of playing in a home finals series after turning out to be worse than initially thought.
The 32-year-old had been in fine form once again this season, earning a place in the Super League Dream Team on the back of performances that helped his club St Helens win the League Leaders’ Shield.
Meanwhile Leeds Rhinos have ruled Newman out of the World Cup with the hamstring injury, which has kept him out of the Super League play-offs.
The 22-year-old centre has yet to make his debut for England but would likely have been a key part of Wane’s plans if fit.
However, he has had a miserable season with injuries, making only seven appearances all year because of two hamstring issues, the latest of which has now definitely ended his World Cup ambitions.
England also have a serious doubt in Wigan Warriors’ Liam Farrell, who suffered a knee injury in the same derby clash that Walmsley picked up his issue.
The backrower is facing an uphill task to be ready with an injury that had a two-month timescale put on it.
However, his coach Matt Peet said Wigan were doing “everything we can” to “fast-track” his recovery and give him a chance of featuring at the World Cup.
Wane will also be taking an interest in today’s disciplinary verdicts, with Wigan’s John Bateman and Saints’ Morgan Knowles at risk of bans that could hinder their World Cup availability.
One player who certainly won’t feature in the tournament is Gareth Widdop, following the Warrington Wolves halfback’s recent retirement from the international game.
But fresh talent could arrive in Newcastle Knights’ Dom Young, the former Huddersfield Giants winger, who has scored 14 tries in 20 NRL matches this season and says he wants to play for England.
Brisbane Broncos centre Herbie Farnworth also remains in contention for the squad, despite not appearing since June because of a bicep injury, as part of a sizeable contingent that could travel from Australia to join Wane’s squad.
Forwards Tom Burgess (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Luke Thompson (Canterbury Bulldogs) and Canberra Raiders pair Elliott Whitehead and Ryan Sutton are all expected to be in Wane’s squad, which must be named by Saturday (September 24).
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