With the confirmation of former Huddersfield coach Paul Anderson as the new England Knights for this year’s Six Nations, it secures end-of-season international rugby league for a clutch of this country’s brightest young talent.
As the pathway to the England senior team, the Knights line-up will be fascinating at the end of this year when they compete against the rest of European rugby league’s best. But what could Anderson’s first team look like? Here’s a selection to whet the appetite.
Fullback: Jack Walker
The fullback spot for both England and the Knights is fiercely competitive – with Sam Tomkins, Gareth Widdop and Jamie Shaul all in the mix. But with this Knights team trying to give a nod to the future as much as possible, we’ve opted for the supremely-talented Jack Walker. In essence, players like Walker are what the Knights are for: early exposure to international rugby.
Wing: Tom Davies
Much like fullback, there is plenty of competition for the wing – but our first spot goes to Wigan’s exciting young prospect, Tom Davies. Amazingly, Davies has competition from his own club, let alone the rest of the league: with Liam Marshall and Joe Burgess also in the mix!
Centre: Oliver Gildart
A future England international without question, Oliver Gildart’s path to the senior side should begin with a Knights call-up. He remains one of the most promising outside backs this country has developed for some time.
Centre: Jake Connor
With a regular run of games at Hull FC this year, it would come as no surprise if Anderson opted to select Jake Connor in his first squad. The beauty of Connor is that he is a fantastic asset for any squad, given he can play – and perform – in a number of positions across the backline. We, however, have opted for him to play centre.
Wing: Tom Johnstone
A no-brainer, this. His stock continues to rise and rise – and who knows, by the end of this season, Tom Johnstone may have made his way into the senior squad. But if not, an England Knights call surely beckons for the flying Wakefield winger.
Stand-off: Jake Trueman
We’ve opted for a young pairing in the halves, with Castleford starlet Jake Trueman taking the first position. He may find opportunities difficult to come by this year, but he looks like a star of the future.
Scrum-half: Danny Richardson
Alongside Trueman in the halves is the highly-rated St Helens half-back, Danny Richardson. Such is Richardson’s ability, he has kept England international and Grand Final winner Matty Smith out of the Saints side from the get-go so far this year – and he looks to be getting better and better.
Prop: Liam Watts
Into the pack and, perhaps unsurprisingly, there are no shortage of options for Anderson to pick from. Our first choice is Hull’s Liam Watts – a player who, like some others in this team, could yet play his way into the senior side. If he doesn’t, though, he’s an obvious shout for the Knights.
Hooker: Paul McShane
The likes of Kruise Leeming and Sam Powell are viable options for this role in the side, but we’ve gone for Castleford’s Paul McShane – a player who has been vital to the Tigers’ success over the last year or so.
Prop: Luke Thompson
St Helens prop Luke Thompson completes the front row. He has a big future in the game, and will no doubt have a big say in how far the Saints can go this season.
Second row: Matty Ashurst
Into the back row, and we start with a very popular choice: Wakefield’s Matty Ashurst. Consistently one of Trinity’s best players on a weekly basis, the hard-working forward is being tipped by many – including his coach – to muscle his way into England contention at some point. Will that start with a Knights call-up?
Second row: Morgan Knowles
Here’s our controversial choice – Wales international Morgan Knowles! The St Helens forward was born in Cumbria, though, so clearly qualifies for England and indeed the Knights. Expect him to find his way into the England setup at some point, such is his talent.
Loose-forward: Adam Milner
He’s one of Super League’s best out-and-out loose-forwards – and Adam Milner takes his place in the team to round off our starting line-up!
Subs: Ryan Sutton, Joe Greenwood, Liam Sutcliffe, Matt Whitley
Any glaring omissions we’ve missed (we’re sure there are..)? If so, tweet us @LeagueExpress with your suggestions!