England coach Wayne Bennett is set to name his squad to face Samoa next month in the coming days.. and nobody is really quite sure what to expect.
Will Bennett stick with the tried and tested? Or will he hand out some debuts as he looks to give some new talent an opportunity to impress ahead of this year’s World Cup? As we know, Bennett can only pick three players from each Super League club – but in a reduced squad, that isn’t expected to be a problem. Here’s the three most likely contenders from every top-flight side.
Castleford – Luke Gale, Michael Shenton and Zak Hardaker
We start with the league leaders – and three players who have all tasted international action in the past. Luke Gale is perhaps England’s leading contender to play scrum-half at the World Cup, Hardaker is the in-form English fullback of the moment and Michael Shenton certainly deserves to be in contention for a recall to the national side.
Catalans – Iain Thornley and Richie Myler
Catalans actually have three English players on their books – but Jodie Broughton’s long-term injury will put paid to him earning a recall to the national side. Thornley and Myler though, have impressed in a Catalans shirt in 2017: and while they would both be surprise inclusions, they would be interesting call-ups, to say the least.
Huddersfield – Jermaine McGillvary and Leroy Cudjoe
Fairly straightforward from a Huddersfield perspective; their long-serving wing-centre duo of McGillvary and Cudjoe are the two contenders for a call-up for the Samoa game.
Hull FC – Scott Taylor, Danny Houghton and Jamie Shaul
Hull’s three big English stars in Taylor, Houghton and Shaul will all quietly fancy their chances of a call-up. Taylor has an England cap to his name while the other two would be looking for a debut for the national side against Samoa if selected.
Leeds – Kallum Watkins, Ryan Hall and Ashton Golding
It’s almost inevitable that Watkins and Hall will be involved for the Samoa game – but could Ashton Golding force his way into contention? Jonny Lomax is currently injured, as is Sam Tomkins – so if Bennett fancies an outsider at fullback, the young Leeds man could be a good shout.
Leigh – Gareth Hock
Hock’s early-season form led his own coach and captain to suggest he’s good enough to force his way back into international contention. Time will tell whether that proves to be the case.
Salford – Gareth O’Brien, Mark Flanagan and Justin Carney
O’Brien has truly excelled in a Salford shirt this season and would be a great outside bet for a call-up, as would Flanagan, who looks a real leader in an impressive Salford pack. The curveball here is Carney – he’s been in the country for long enough: could he really be an England international?
St Helens – Mark Percival, Jonny Lomax and Alex Walmsley
Percival’s early-season form has been great for the Saints, so he should be involved. Fitness may deter Lomax’s chances of a call-up – while in Walmsley, St Helens and England possess a prop who could provide short, explosive spells against a physical Samoan side.
Wakefield – Tom Johnstone
Johnstone may well be Wakefield’s only realistic chance of a call-up as things stand, but he would certainly be an exciting one to watch if he got an opportunity. He remains one of the competition’s most exciting young British talents.
Warrington – Daryl Clark, Chris Hill and Stefan Ratchford
All three were involved in last year’s Four Nations: and expect them all to be involved again for the World Cup – as well as the Samoa game.
Widnes – Matt Whitley
It’s been a turgid season so far for Widnes – but Matt Whitley is still a fine young talent: and while the Samoa game may come too soon, he could be one to watch in the future.
Wigan – George Williams, Liam Farrell and Oliver Gildart
Williams is somewhat of a certainty to be included you feel – Farrell’s recent form could also put him into that bracket. The fitness of Gildart may be the only thing which stops him from getting a call: as he looks to be well worth a chance in the coming months.