On Monday, the 29-man Great Britain train-on squad was announced, with some notable inclusions and exclusions.
The squad will be trimmed down ahead of Autumn’s overseas tour, which will see the Lions take on Tonga, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
🇬🇧Wayne Bennett has today announced his #GBRLLIONS training squad.
👊The squad was selected by a panel of seven, led by the GB Head Coach.
👀Read more: https://t.co/KdTHEpaQMt
— Rugby Football League (@TheRFL) September 2, 2019
Here are five players who were unfortunate to miss out.
Mike Cooper (Warrington Wolves)
It’s been almost three years since Cooper last played internationally and he’s yet to break back in since returning to Warrington.
But the Wolves prop has enjoyed his best season since returning from the NRL, leading the Warrington pack in many games.
Cooper is currently fifth in Super League’s offload charts and has made 26 appearances.
However, England is currently blessed with numerous high calibre props. Cooper is feeling the effects of that.
Niall Evalds (Salford Red Devils)
Niall Evalds hadn’t neccessarily been championed for a place in the Great Britain squad, but his absence in the aftermath has been well discussed.
2019 has been a stunning year for Salford’s number 1, who has established himself as one of Super League’s best fullbacks.
His remarkable form has seen him touted for a place in the Super League Dream Team. Evalds is the competition’s second-top try-scorer having bagged 21 tries. He’s assisted 12 others.
Yet despite that, he has been overlooked, with Lachlan Coote, Jamie Shaul and Sam Tomkins all named in the 29-man squad.
Alongside Coote, Evalds has been Super League’s best fullback this season and deserved a crack in the Lions setup.
Liam Farrell (Wigan Warriors)
Farrell might not be the most fashionable, expansive back-rower in the game, but don’t let that hide his talent.
The back-rower has rediscovered his best form under Adrian Lam, returning from injury and scoring an impressive eight tries in 13 games.
With the likes of Ben Currie not included, Farrell may have thought he was in with a shout.
Regan Grace (St Helens)
Seemingly, Grace was in contention for a spot in the squad but ultimately missed out to Ash Handley.
A fair call? That’s subjective, but Grace has enjoyed a fantastic season and has provided moments of sheer excellence as part of Saints’ table-topping side, scoring 20 tries in 30 games.
Still only 22, he has time on his side.
Morgan Smithies (Wigan Warriors)
Yes, he’s only 18. Yes, he only made his debut this year.
But in his short professional career, Morgan Smithies has proven himself at the very top, taking on some of the game’s toughest forwards and standing toe to toe.
Both Stevie Ward and Sean O’Loughlin have been named in the squad, players who could well play in his position in the back-row.
Ward’s talent isn’t disputed but his injury issues have left some questioning his place in the side. As for O’Loughlin, Smithies has been dubbed as his long-term replacement. During the Wigan captain’s absence from the team through injury, Smithies has stepped up and played his part in six wins from seven games.
It’s already inevitable that Smithies is on his way to the top. You could argue he has already earned his chance.