England are blessed with potentially the best group of players in a generation ahead of their Test against Samoa in Sydney in May.
With a World Cup just around the corner, England fans are cautiously optimistic that they could be lifting the trophy for the second time in history this autumn when they face off against the world’s best sides. But before that, Wayne Bennett has to select a squad for Samoa – and there are some intriguing options available to him.
Bennett can only select three players from each Super League club – meaning there could be some surprise inclusions. As well as that, the early-season form of some could see them catapulted into contention. Here’s five outside bets.
Lee Mossop (Salford)
The early-season exploits of Mossop since moving to Salford from Wigan have really caught the eye – and he should deservedly be in contention for a surprise call-up for the Samoa game. His coach has been championing his international credentials from an early stage this year, with Ian Watson believing Mossop is good enough to play for England. Recent form suggests that is certainly the case: and the move across Lancashire has certainly benefitted the big forward.
Greg Eden (Castleford)
Super League’s top try-scorer faces stiff competition from the likes of Ryan Hall and Jermaine McGillvary to muscle his way into contention – but it’s impossible to ignore Eden’s early-season form. Initially signed as a fullback to replace Luke Dorn, Eden has thrived on the wing thus far, and looks at home in a free-scoring Castleford team. Could he make the leap into the international arena?
Alex Walmsley (St Helens)
It’s been a while since Walmsley was in England contention, but in a difficult start to 2017 for St Helens, the big forward has been a shining beacon of hope. Against Salford on Thursday he was undoubtedly their best player, and he provided a real menacing impact throughout. Could he be a shock inclusion on the plane?
Tom Johnstone (Wakefield)
Like Greg Eden, Tom Johnstone faces a tough ask to get in the England side. But there’s no doubting his talent, and with only three players from each club going, could it leave the door ajar for Johnstone to sneak a place on the plane for the Samoa game? It would be an ideal opportunity for Bennett to test his international credentials, that’s for sure.
Gareth Hock (Leigh)
Who would have predicted that Gareth Hock would be anywhere near England contention at the start of the season? Yet his form since returning to Super League has been magnificent, and it has led to his coach, Neil Jukes, championing his case for a surprise call-up for the Samoa game. It would be quite the comeback story if he did make it on the plane, that’s for sure.