England sub-plots to ignite Super League, says Ratchford

Stefan Ratchford predicts an exciting year of Super League ahead because players are battling directly for places in England’s World Cup squad.

The schedule for next autumn’s delayed tournament was released last week, one year before the men’s final will take place at Old Trafford, as the countdown continues for Shaun Wane’s host nation.

Ratchford, who has no shortage of competition for his own preferred fullback spot, including Sam Tomkins, Zak Hardaker, Jake Connor and Niall Evalds, believes the World Cup will provide an exciting sub-plot to the domestic season.

He said: “There’s a lot of strong competition at fullback but being in the squad the past couple of years, you see the players coming in and those who are already in the squad and every position has now got really good strength in depth.

“It’s a really exciting time for England fans but also Super League fans, knowing that there are three or four players available in every position.

“Most weeks you’re going to have some sort of battle, like Toby King and Harry Newman as potential England centres battling against each other, or Mike Cooper against Alex Walmsley.

“Every week there’s going to be competition on the field between players who could potentially be in that England squad.

“Hopefully it will make for a more intense year with more quality year on the field, which will entertain the fans and stand us in good stead going into the World Cup.”

Not that it can be too personal between players who could be team-mates in that final squad.

“You’ve just got to focus on yourself,” said Ratchford.

“First and foremost, you want to play well for your club.

“If 17 people are doing that every week, it will put you in a really good position as a team to be successful but also for selection for the World Cup.”

Ratchford missed England’s post-season match in France to have wrist surgery, having played on through the final months of the season with the injury.

“I’m four-and-a-half weeks post-op now, so I’m counting down to when it comes off,” said the Warrington Wolves star.

“It’s hard work being in a cast for so long. That’s nearly over now and as soon as it comes off, I can start cracking on.”

Ratchford is yet to be able to take part in any field sessions as Warrington started their pre-season last week.

However, even watching on from the sidelines he has been able to see the impact that new head coach Daryl Powell is already having.

“All the lads are running around with smiles on their faces, they’ve enjoyed the first couple of days working with Daryl and what his ideas and philosophies are,” said Ratchford.

“A few of us are on the sidelines itching to get back into training as the lads who are training are really enjoying it.

“It’s going to be a really exciting year for us: we’re all looking forward to it, given the success he’s had at Castleford, taking them from a club towards the bottom of the league to League Leaders, playing in a Grand Final and playing in Challenge Cup finals.

“Each individual who has played under Daryl has improved so we’re all looking forward to squeezing that extra couple of per cent out of ourselves.”

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