With the World Cup set for the end of the season, a number of English hopefuls are determined to win a place in Shaun Wane’s thinking.
It’s been a bit of a bizarre 2022 season so far, with numerous unexpected results such as Salford Red Devils’ thrashing of St Helens and Wakefield Trinity’s drubbing of the Castleford Tigers last weekend.
Wane clearly has players in mind already, but just which five Super League stars could be picked based on their form that they have showed so far in 2022?
Joe Burgess – Salford Red Devils
Joe Burgess left the Wigan Warriors at the end of the 2020 Super League season in the hope of a fresh start at Salford. It’s fair to say that the move has been vindicated with the winger putting in some incredible performances in 2022 not least against Toulouse Olympique when he made not one, not two, but three try-saving tackles. His height and athleticism would be perfect against those from the NRL in their respective home nations whilst his pace would be a constant threat against anyone. Arguably the form winger in the competition at present, Burgess has surely done enough to be in Wane’s thinking.
Liam Marshall – Wigan Warriors
If Joe Burgess has flown under the radar in 2022 then so has Liam Marshall. The fleet-footed flyer has been the perfect example of what a winger should be like, making numerous metres out of defence and possessing a stunning finishing ability. And, with his link to former Wigan boss Wane already there, the England link-up could be closer than what people think. Sixth in the Super League table for tries scored with 15, Marshall has been quietly going about his business whilst the likes of teammates Jai Field and Bevan French hog the limelight. The only thing that goes against the winger is his height when compared to those from Australia and New Zealand etc.
Ash Handley – Leeds Rhinos
England seemingly have a glut of quality wingers that could force their way into the World Cup squad, but one that continues to impress week in week out for his club is Leeds’ Ash Handley. Seventh in the Super League try-scoring charts with 15, Handley has stood up when the Rhinos have needed their most experienced players to do so in 2022. When the going was tough under Richard Agar at the beginning of the season, the winger was arguably Leeds’ best player. And, his form has continued right the way through the year to make it a tough choice to leave him out of the World Cup.
Cameron Smith – Leeds Rhinos
One perhaps out of left field, but Cameron Smith has been one of Leeds’ most impressive players in 2022. The ball-playing forward has played in the back-row and even halfback for Rohan Smith, highlighting his versatility within the Rhinos’ squad. And, he’s done it with aplomb, too. Smith would be an asset in the England side given he can play anywhere in the pack as an extra playmaker and could be the missing link that Wane’s men need between forwards and the backs. Unlikely to get in front of Morgan Knowles, Smith could be a wildcard option.
Daryl Clark – Warrington Wolves
In what has been a shocking season for the Warrington Wolves, there has been one constant threat within Daryl Powell’s side and that has been hooker Daryl Clark. His experience would prove vital for England in the World Cup, whilst his sniping out of dummy-half would cause numerous problems for any side that Wane’s men come up against. It remains to be seen who Wane will pick as his starting hooker at the World Cup, with Catalans’ Michael McIlorum and Castleford’s Paul McShane getting the nod in the mid-season fixture against the All Stars, but Clark could well force his way into the reckoning.