With the State of Origin returning in Australia, the usual debates about rekindling the Yorkshire versus Lancashire clash are once more coming to the fore.
This selection is based off of the current squad numbers of players for the 2021 season and is purely hypothetical given there are no plans to initiate an Origin Series any time soon.
Could this be the best team Lancashire can create to face a Yorkshire XVII?
1. Stefan Ratchford- Warrington Wolves
The Warrington fullback is consistently regarded as one of the best performing players in Super League but is one that maybe has not got the credit he is due. He is a skilful runner and has always been a very committed rugby player. As the fullback for Lancashire, Ratchford could achieve possibly his greatest performances yet.
2. Tommy Makinson- St. Helens
One of the stand-out performers of the season last year and easily the best finisher in the game – he causes problems for any player he comes up against. Makinson is the perfect try-scoring machine and would be a sure pick for Lancashire.
3. Mark Percival – St Helens
It’s certainly a St Helens-heavy side, but you just cannot leave this man out. On his day he is the best centre in Super League, it’s just unfortunate that injury has plagued Mark Percival’s season so far. Would no doubt thrive in a representative environment such as this after making six appearances for England already.
4. Oliver Gildart- Wigan Warriors
A young player who already has a lot of rugby league experience, winning the Grand Final twice with Wigan in 2016 and 2018. Gildart has also played for Great Britain and is a safe bet for England squads of the future. Selection in an Origin Series would be the perfect way for him to gain more representative rugby experience, though a move to the NRL at the end of 2021 could end any such hope. The centre has suffered from injury this season, but he is a superb player when on the field.
5. Adam Swift – Hull FC
Prior to the 2021 season, Adam Swift wouldn’t have had a look in for such representative honours. However, the winger’s form for Hull this year has been nothing short of sensational. The move to the KCOM Stadium has rejuvenated his career and both he and Hull are reaping the rewards.
6. Jonny Lomax- St. Helens
Whenever discussions about the best player of the year come around, this man is always near, or at the top of, the list. Respected both here and in Australia, Jonny Lomax would surely be a cert for selection in a Lancashire XVII.
7. Marc Sneyd – Hull FC
He’s been at Hull for that long that you would be forgiven in thinking that Marc Sneyd is actually from Yorkshire. However, the talismanic halfback hails from Salford which makes his inclusion in this list pretty straightforward. With an incredible kicking game as well as an intelligent rugby brain, Sneyd would be a huge asset for Lancashire.
8. Matty Lees – St Helens
Having taken over from Luke Thompson as the first-choice prop, Matty Lees has gone from strength-to-strength with the added responsibility. Despite being just 23 years of age, Lees has played almost 100 games for Saints and will almost certainly add more in the near future.
9. James Roby (C)- St. Helens
One of the true Super League greats, James Roby has done it all. His experience and game management are impeccable and he is the only candidate, in this writer’s opinion, that would be considered to captain a Lancashire side.
10. Mike Cooper- Warrington Wolves
A player who knows what it is like to play in big games, Mike Cooper would be a valued edition to a Lancashire XVII. He has made over 300 appearances at club level (69 of those came with the St. George Illawarra Dragons in the NRL) and was capped eight times for England in the 2015-2016 campaign. Cooper has also played in the last three finals Warrington have got to, winning the 2019 Challenge Cup final against St. Helens.
11. Ben Currie- Warrington Wolves
Even though he is a player who has been picked for both the Irish and English squads, Ben Currie has yet to be given a true test at representative rugby. Despite suffering from injuries in the past, his work ethic and performances for Warrington means he would definitely be in contention to be picked to represent Lancashire.
12. Liam Farrell- Wigan Warriors
With three tries for England and over 100 for the Warriors, as well as playing in one of the most successful teams in Super League, Liam Farrell would be a welcome edition to this team. His experience of big games would be perfect for the occasion and it is doubtful whether any other eligible player is better for this position.
13. Joe Philbin- Warrington Wolves
An extremely tenacious rugby player, Joe Philbin is one of the stars of Warrington and quite rightly so. His grit and determination on the field are plain to see and his physical presence would make a few players think twice. A certain pick for a strong Lancashire team.
14. Brad Dwyer- Leeds Rhinos
Underused at Warrington perhaps, but finding himself to be one of the stalwarts at Leeds, Brad Dwyer never leaves anything out on the field. His compact, explosive power, as well as neat footwork, make him extremely dangerous to the opposition and he will never give up on a challenge.
15. Sam Powell – Wigan Warriors
It’s unfortunate for Sam Powell that he is behind James Roby because, if not, the hooker would surely be the number one Origin choice for Lancashire. Having improved on a consistent basis since the departure of Michael McIlorum, Powell just has to be included.
16. Richie Myler- Leeds Rhinos
Last season, Richie Myler found the form that had been somewhat lacking in recent years. Being re-signed by Leeds after the collapse of the Toronto Wolfpack seems to have given him his magic back and he would be a vital playmaker within this team.
17. Jordan Turner – Castleford Tigers
A transfer to Castleford ahead of the 2021 season has given Jordan Turner a new lease of life and boy is he showing what he can still do. At 32, Turner’s career looked to be winding down at Huddersfield, but the utility man has grabbed the bull by the horns and become one of the Tigers’ most important players.