Garry Schofield: 10 players ready to break into England contention

In the January 23rd edition of League Express, regular columnist Garry Schofield cast his eye over players who could break into the England team ahead of the World Cup.

Garry’s column, ‘Pulling No Punches’ is in League Express every week, and in the new edition, he previews the first round of the Championship. Read it now by purchasing the online edition of the paper at

James Batchelor (Wakefield Trinity)

Despite all the boasts of England having a great pack of forwards, the cupboard seems pretty bare for second-rowers these days. James Batchelor has impressed everyone so far at Wakefield and seems certain to play for England one day. It might not be this year, but a big season would do him no harm at all! From what I’ve seen of him, he’s reminded me of Lee Crooks. He’s very confident in his own ability and I understand he really stood out on the Academy tour of Australia. Wakefield have uncovered some gems of late and I’d like to see James included in the trip to the Samoa game. He’s got a big future and Trinity will have a fight on their hands to keep him.

Ben Currie (Warrington Wolves)

Ben is probably the best English player currently not to have a cap, but that’s only because injury robbed him of a place in the Four Nations team. He’s sheer quality. He can cover both second row and centre, but I’d use him in the latter position because we need some real quality there. He’s solid defensively and has a good passing game for his winger. Admittedly, some of the players on this list are ones for the future, but Currie would walk into anyone’s England side tomorrow.

Joe Greenwood (St Helens)

I’ve liked Joe Greenwood for a couple of years. If he were used in the right way – third man from the ruck area aiming for the opposition centres – then he’d do a good job for England. He certainly wouldn’t look out of place in an England jersey. I’m looking forward to seeing him develop for another season at St Helens because I believe there are big things to come from him.

Josh Griffin (Hull FC)

England have had so few players down the years who find their best form when the pressure is really on. But watch the end of the Million Pound Game again. With everything at stake, Griffin produced two fabulous pieces of centre play within three minutes to save Salford’s skin. I like Josh and I’m sure he’ll kick on to the next level at Hull this season.

Tom Johnstone (Wakefield Trinity)

Even if he does nothing for the rest of his career, he’ll be remembered for many years for that incredible try last season against Huddersfield. It was like a throwback to the great wingers of my generation and before because he’s not a typical build for the modern game, but boy, he can score tries for fun. His confidence certainly isn’t lacking and he’s got plenty of pace. There’s no issue with his defence and he’s good under the high ball.

Dominic Manfredi (Wigan Warriors)

He’s another who would have been in the England squad had he not been injured, although he probably wouldn’t have forced Ryan Hall or Jermaine McGillivray out of the side. I think he’s quality and there’s barely a weakness in his game. He’s a big strong lad with a similar build to Ryan and Jermaine and so he’s a natural next-in-line for a wing spot.

Mike McMeeken (Castleford Tigers)

I like this kid and it’s time for him to take the step up to a place in the England squad. He’s a good wingers’ backrower who could also play at centre and he’s been a big part of Castleford doing so well over recent seasons. We’ve had some poor options in the centres recently for England, so I’d like to see him play more often in that position with a view to being given a shot if he can carry on improving.

Declan Patton (Warrington Wolves)

I’ve already spoken a lot about how much I rate Declan Patton. He’s ready to be playing for Warrington every week, although whether that happens or not remains to be seen. We’ve not been blessed with organising halfbacks for many years, but I’ve seen enough in him to suggest he can go on to be this sort of player for Warrington and England for many years. If he gets a decent amount of game time this season and if he plays how I know he can then I hope he forces his way into consideration.

Andre Savelio (Warrington Wolves)

I’m still surprised that St Helens let him go because he looked great there! Maybe they wanted to stick with the more structured and less flamboyant players, because Andre reminds me of the type of skilful forward that we don’t see too much of these days. His footwork is excellent and he’s got plenty of speed. He marks yards and can score tries. Warrington will get the best out of him running out wide, and, if he’s not scoring tries, he’ll be creating them, because he’s got a good passing game.

Alex Walmsley (St Helens)

I’ve been talking up Alex since he broke into the professional game. I don’t think Batley intended to use him much when they signed him, but he proved them wrong. And when Saints signed him, they intended to loan him back to the Bulldogs on dual-registration. He proved them wrong too! And he should have been capped by England by now. I like the way he’s turned Scotland down because he has confidence in his ability. He would have been watching the Four Nations thinking he would have done a better job than the props selected ahead of him. England have a lot of props, but I feel that some of the incumbent props need to prove their worth again and not just be picked on reputation. I’m a big fan of Kyle Amor too and at least one of them should be in the World Cup squad.