Leeds winger Ash Handley and Warrington centre Toby King have both been brought into Shaun Wane’s extended England group who will be invited to physical training as soon as possible after the conclusion of the Super League season.
The pair weren’t originally part of Wane’s plans for the 2021 World Cup but, after showing impressive form since the season’s resumption, have been called upon.
King has previously represented England Knights, being part of the squad that toured Papua New Guinea in 2018.
Handley, Super League’s current leading try-scorer, was also in that touring side and represented England at last year’s World Cup Nines, before being called into the Great Britain squad as a backup player.
Wane has also stood down seven players from the squad – Chris Hill, Josh Charnley, Jack Hughes, Scott Taylor, Josh Jones, Liam Watts and Reece Lyne.
“I’ve always said I would pick players on form, and I think it’s important to show that,” said Wane. “We’ve seen some fantastic rugby since the season restarted in August, and I thought last Friday’s game between St Helens and Wigan was the best yet.
“Toby King and Ash Handley have been two of the lads who have really impressed me with their performances and consistency, so it’s right that they are recognised for that, and they know they are in the group I’ll be contacting regularly until we can get together properly.
“Some other players have fallen below the standard of performance I need from my England players, so again it’s right that they have been told that as things stand I don’t regard them as part of the group. But they know the door isn’t closed – it’s up to them how they respond.”
Two players who were originally in the NRL contingent – John Bateman and Kallum Watkins – have both returned to Super League and so have been added to the Europe-based squad, while Luke Thompson is now among the NRL players after his move to Canterbury Bulldogs.
Current England group ahead of 2021 World Cup: Daryl Clark, Mike Cooper, Ben Currie, Joe Philbin, Stefan Ratchford, Toby King (all Warrington Wolves), Niall Evalds, Dan Sarginson, Kallum Watkins (all Salford), Liam Farrell, Oliver Gildart, Zak Hardaker, Dom Manfredi, John Bateman (all Wigan Warriors), Luke Gale, Harry Newman, Ash Handley (all Leeds Rhinos), Josh Griffin (Hull FC), Tom Johnstone (Wakefield Trinity), Jonny Lomax, Tommy Makinson, Mark Percival, James Roby, Alex Walmsley, Morgan Knowles (all St Helens), Paul McShane (Castleford Tigers), Jermaine McGillvary (Huddersfield Giants), Sam Tomkins (Catalans Dragons).
NRL players: Luke Thompson (Canterbury), Herbie Farnworth (Brisbane), George Williams, Elliott Whitehead, Josh Hodgson, Ryan Sutton (Canberra), Tom Burgess (South Sydney)