Sam Tomkins; Jermaine McGillvary, Mark Percival, Kallum Watkins, Ryan Hall; George Williams, Gareth Widdop; Sam Burgess, James Roby, James Graham, John Bateman, Elliott Whitehead, Sean O’Loughlin. Interchange: Chris Hill, Jonny Lomax, Stevie Ward, Tom Burgess.
With four members of the original EPS either injured long-term (Alex Walmsley, Ben Currie and Luke Gale) or unavailable (Kevin Brown), it leaves the squad skinny and threadbare in some areas. The obvious remedy for me is bringing Sam Tomkins in; I was amazed he missed out initially anyway given the season he’s had so far. He goes straight in at fullback for me; that’s nothing against Jonny Lomax, but I see Lomax pushing the two halves hard given how he’s played so well at stand-off for St Helens this year.
I know Jermaine McGillvary has been injured and the temptation would be to throw Tom Johnstone in, but by Denver, McGillvary should have had enough game-time under his belt. He and Ryan Hall remain our best two wingers.
Elsewhere, James Roby has the tank and the ability to play 80 minutes – and if he needs a rest, George Williams goes in at dummy-half while Lomax comes on. Stevie Ward is overdue a Test cap, too. The one person I feel really, really annoyed I’ve had to leave out? St Helens’ Tommy Makinson. If McGillvary isn’t match-fit – he’s in.
Stefan Ratchford; Josh Charnley, Mark Percival, Kallum Watkins, Ryan Hall; George Williams, Gareth Widdop; Chris Hill, James Roby, Sam Burgess, John Bateman, Elliott Whitehead, Sean O’Loughlin. Interchange: James Graham, Stevie Ward, Tom Burgess, Daryl Clark.
It’s somewhat disappointing that this team only features players from four Super League clubs, but ultimately I don’t see anyone else breaking in.
The absence of Luke Gale and Kevin Brown will see Gareth Widdop moving back into the halfbacks. It may lead to some suggesting there’s a Sam Tomkins sized hole at fullback, but I’d much rather see Stefan Ratchford get a chance there. I’ve previously stated Tomkins should be involved, and while I’m still shocked that he isn’t in the setup, Ratchford has looked superb recently and deserves a chance to impress.
I’d also like to see Josh Charnley given an opportunity. Not only has Jermaine McGillvary been injured this season but he’s also cemented his place in the team. He’s nothing to gain from playing in Denver while Charnley most certainly does. He’s had a flying start to the year and by my reckoning is above Tom Johnstone in the pecking order on current form despite the Wakefield winger currently having a place in the EPS squad.
It would be good to see Daryl Clark get a runout in an England jersey again, even though Paul McShane is equally deserving but I sense that ship has sailed, while Stevie Ward has done more than enough to earn a cap.