We’re all eagerly awaiting the announcement of Shaun Wane’s World Cup squad, and we’ll all have our own ideas about who should be among the 24 players to be selected.
It’s a tough call for an international coach, because obviously they want as many top players to choose from as possible, but they also must think about the balance of the pool. It’s not good having ten props and only one halfback, for example.
Shaun needs to consider what will happen if injuries strike, and have as much back-up for each position as possible, and of course he’ll also have a better knowledge than most of us about how fit his potential call-ups are after a long, hard season.
Alex Walmsley is unfortunately out because of his foot injury and Harry Newman due to his hamstring problem, while there’s a big question mark against Liam Farrell, who has a knee issue. From what you read, he could be available for the later stages of the tournament, so do you take a risk and pick him?
The biggest question is whether England can win the World Cup, and for me, it’s a huge challenge, particularly given the strength of the Southern Hemisphere sides, including our opening group opponents Samoa.
We’ll see how far they can go, and if by putting themselves in the shop window, whether any players earn a move to the NRL somewhere down the line.
I’d go for five props, Luke Thompson, Tom Burgess, Ryan Sutton (if he’s okay after that finger injury), Mikolaj Oledzki and Matty Lees.
The five second rowers would be John Bateman, Elliott Whitehead, Ben Currie, Joe Batchelor (it’s great to see a player who has taken the old-fashioned, Alex Walmsley-style route to Super League, by the way) and Mike McMeeken, my specialist loose-forward Morgan Knowles, and the hookers Michael McIlorum and Andy Ackers.
My fullback options would by Jack Welsby and Sam Tomkins, wingers Tommy Makinson and Liam Marshall and centres Mark Percival, Kallum Watkins, who would provide another option for the second row, Kai Pearce-Paul (likewise) and Herbie Farnworth and halves George Williams and Jonny Lomax.
I’d also include Zak Hardaker, who provides cover for a few different positions, and have Stefan Ratchford on stand-by.
Let’s see how close I am to the names selected by Shaun, who I wish all the best.
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