Last week Wayne Bennett named his 24-man squad for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup. As always, fans were quick to argue over which players could count themselves lucky to be selected and who was unfortunate not to have been named in the squad. With a whole host of players missing out, we put together an England 17 from those players Wayne Bennett chose to leave out. Let us know who would’ve made your side and how you think this team would fair in a warm up game against the England World Cup squad.
Full-back: Jamie Shaul
With Zak Hardaker unavailable, it seemingly left Wayne Bennett with a choice of four full-backs which left fans divided on who should take the number one shirt. Jonny Lomax, Stefan Ratchford, Jamie Shaul and Sam Tomkins would all have been hopeful of a call up but it was Lomax and Ratchford who got the nod. Whilst Tomkins has international experience on his side, Shaul’s endured the better season of the two and earns himself a place in our ‘best of the rest’ team.
Wing: Greg Eden
One of the most surprising omissions from the 24-man squad was that of Super League’s top try scorer Greg Eden. With 38 tries for the season, most expected to see Eden’s name in Wayne Bennett’s squad but the England coach has surprisingly opted for only two recognised wingers with the tried and tested pair of Ryan Hall and Jermaine McGillvary.
Centre: Michael Shenton
If Eden was unfortunate to miss out, then so was the man who has set up so many of his tries on Castleford’s left hand side. The Castleford skipper, who made the 2017 Super League Dream Team, chipped in with 19 try assists for the league leaders but, just like Eden, finds himself missing out on the squad with Bennett opting to take only two out and out centres in Mark Percival and Kallum Watkins.
Centre: Oliver Gildart
Still only 21, Gildart was a standout performer in an inconsistent Wigan side this year. The young centre reached double figures in terms of tries and was named Super League’s young Player of the Year. Whilst Gildart was overlooked by Wayne Bennett, he certainly isn’t far behind fellow left centres Percival and Shenton and another strong season next year could be enough to see him called up.
Wing: Joe Burgess
There are plenty of options to claim the second wing spot with the likes of Ben Jones-Bishop, Tommy Makinson and Wigan youngster Liam Marshall all missing from England’s 24-man squad. However, Wigan’s Joe Burgess enjoyed a prolific season despite missing several games through injury. Burgess averaged a try a game in all competitions and crossed for a hat-trick in the World Club Challenge against Cronulla back in February. Burgess, just like Eden, would’ve been ideal to provide competition to Ryan Hall and Jermaine McGillvary had Bennett decided to take three wingers.
Stand-off: Paul McShane
McShane has mostly occupied the number nine shirt at Castleford this season but has proved his versatility filling in at stand-off on several occasions, and certainly hasn’t looked out of place when playing in the halves. Seeing as we are blessed with so many options at hooker but less so at six & seven, McShane claims the stand-off position and would have been a useful option to Wayne Bennet, being able to cover more than one position.
Half-back: Marc Sneyd
With England taking four halves down under, Marc Sneyd can consider himself pretty unfortunate to miss out. The Hull FC half-back has proved he can step up in big games by winning the Lance Todd trophy in back-to-back cup finals. Whilst Widdop and Gale have probably done enough to cement themselves as first choice, Sneyd’s pinpoint kicking game could have been a valuable asset to have as cover Down Under.
Prop: Liam Watts
Plenty of fans on social media were questioning the omission of another FC player, Liam Watts. Watts was one of the stand out front rowers in 2017 and if the squad was being picked on from, most would agree he would be worthy of a place. Unfortunately for Watts, Bennett’s squad had an all too familiar look to it with plenty of underperforming members of last year’s Four Nations squad retaining their place in the side. With that said, Liam Watts can probably consider himself the most unfortunate English prop forward not on the plane down under.
Hooker: Danny Houghton
Sticking with the Black and Whites, Hull’s Mr. Consistent Danny Houghton once again topped the Super League’s tackle count, making that three consecutive seasons. However, it wasn’t enough to secure Houghton a place in England’s World Cup squad who also missed out on last year’s Four Nations even after his ‘Man of Steel’ year. Houghton can definitely consider himself unfortunate to be overlooked two years in a row and is one of the first names on the team sheet when putting together a squad of those that missed out.
Prop: George Burgess
The Burgess boys have been shoe-ins for England since they made the move to Sydney. Unfortunately, twins George and Tom have struggled to find their best consistently this year and consequently there was only room for one in England’s World Cup squad. While George was the one to miss out, his previous performances for England are enough to merit him a place in the front row of this squad.
Second Row: Liam Farrell
Liam Farrell’s selection kick-starts a common theme of talented, English back rowers that most fans would’ve preferred to see line up for England as opposed to 35-year old, Aussie born Chris Heighington. Heighington’s inclusion didn’t sit well with most English rugby league fans and it’s no surprise when you consider the alternative of someone like Farrell, who has previously shown up well for England.
Second Row – Stevie Ward
Stevie Ward would most likely be representing England at this year’s World Cup if it wasn’t for a shoulder injury picked up the week before he courageously played in the Grand Final. Ward has become a key player for Leeds and I’m sure will go on to represent England at World Cup’s in the future but unfortunately will have to sit this one out.
Loose Forward – Adam Milner
One of the unsung heroes of Castleford’s historic season is versatile forward Adam Milner. The fan favourite at the Jungle, due to his tireless work rate, would’ve been a welcome addition to Bennett’s squad, being able to cover loose forward and hooker, but is another name to add to the list of young, English back rowers that missed out.
Joe Greenwood had a very solid first season Down Under after his move from Saints, missing only two games for the Gold Coast Titans. Usually, when an English player moves to the NRL and makes themselves a first team regular, it’s enough to earn them an international call up but unfortunately this didn’t hold true for Greenwood who must’ve been close to making the squad.
Leeds’ Brad Singleton was one of a number of Rhinos’ players who enjoyed a far better 2017 than the previous campaign. Singleton, who has captained England at academy level, may have felt he had an outside chance of making the squad after a solid year but was competing with much more established names in the front row. With that said, strong performances in some big games at the back end of the year is enough to leave people at least asking the question as he jets off to represent Ireland after not being selected for England.
Just like Chris Heighington and Chris McQueen, who both represented England in the mid-season test against Samoa, Adam Cuthbertson qualifies for England through his Father. Cuthbertson finished the year as Super League’s top offloader and has enjoyed a great season with Leeds. Whilst it would’ve been a controversial selection, Heighington’s inclusion in the 24-man squad may leave some fans arguing Cuthbertson would’ve been just as good an option.
The fifth Hull FC player in the 17 shows just how unfortunate the Black and Whites are to have only one representative in Wayne Bennett’s 24-man squad. Jake Connor has been a brilliant addition to Hull this year covering a variety of positions and the utility back would be a great option off the bench for our not selected seventeen.