England’s squad to face Australia: Lomax, McGillvary, Watkins, Bateman, Hall, Widdop, Gale, Hill, Hodgson, Graham, S Burgess, Whitehead, O’Loughlin. Subs: Walmsley, Heighington, T Burgess, Roby.
Matthew Shaw – TotalRL Editor
This is vintage England.
Wayne Bennett has revealed his 17 men to take on Australia and the country is in uproar because he’s had the audacity to pick a team others don’t agree with.
As is normally the case, the outrage is without any real substance.
The two major gripes, initially at least, seem to revolve around the selection of Jonny Lomax at fullback and John Bateman at centre.
The country is up in arms that Mark Percival, a recognised centre, has been overlooked for Bateman, who has spent his domestic career in the back-row. While those views are more than valid, it’s a point that becomes incredibly contradictory when in the next breath, many are moaning that Lomax has been picked at fullback over Stefan Ratchford, who has made a career for being a utility and never nailing down one position.
As it is, I would have picked Ratchford and Percival, while Scott Taylor would have got the nod from me over Chris Heighington.
But Bennett will have a plan. Unless and until that plan is dismantled by the Kangaroos, both he and the side selected should have our support.
Aaron Bower – League Express senior reporter
The knives are already out for Wayne Bennett’s team selection.
Naturally, there are decisions in there which some – maybe more – of us disagree with. But to be ridiculing his picks when England haven’t even played a meaningful game on tour yet seems a tad harsh at this stage.
And of the controversial picks, some of them make sense to me, if nobody else. Let’s face it, Bennett isn’t the first international coach to pick John Bateman at centre, so it’s clear there’s a sense of logic behind that call. Bateman went well against the Central Affiliated States, and given how Mark Percival came on and played on the wing during that game, we should have known then what his intentions with the three-quarter line were.
Jonny Lomax is a welcome addition to the squad again having recovered from a hamstring injury – and though Kevin Brown has got the nod over George Williams in the 21-man squad, in reality, neither of them probably stood a chance for the opening game.
My one wish from seeing the squad? That James Roby makes the 17 – and he should do given a strong performance last Friday and a great run-in with St Helens in Super League before that. Let’s get behind the lads, not consign them to failure before they’ve even kicked a ball!