Now that Shaun Wane has named his 24-man England squad for the World Cup, many are starting to put together their predictions for what his 17 might look like for game one against Samoa at St James’ Park, even referee Richard Silverwood has gotten in on the act.
So we’re having our stab at predicting the team Wane will pick for game one of the World Cup.
Fullback: Sam Tomkins
As captain of the side, Sam Tomkins is guaranteed a spot in the side. He will play a vital role in getting the ball to England’s strike players. In the absence of Jonny Lomax, his leadership and organisation will become more important. If we can see Tomkins recreate his 2021 form, he could be a vital player for England in their hopes to lift the World Cup.
Wingers: Tommy Makinson and Dominic Young
Tommy Makinson as again one of Super League’s top scorers in 2022 despite a lengthy time on the sidelines. A man who hoovers up metres at the more difficult end of the field, he will be key in the yardage battle as well as getting points on the board. Who joins him will be determined by what Wane wants from his wingers. Ryan Hall is also exceptional at gaining metres at the tough end of the field and is England’s all time leading try scorer. That said, young gun Dom Young may be the better way of getting tries given the frequency he has scored them in the NRL this year.
Centre: Kallum Watkins and Herbie Farnworth
Even though Kallum Watkins has stood out at second-row for Salford in 2022, it’s likely he will be tasked with returning to his original position for England at the World Cup with only one other natural centre in the squad. Watkins’ defensive resolve in the pack will make England stern out wide meanwhile he still possesses many of the qualities that makes him a dangerous runner. He will be joined by Herbie Farnworth who has been brilliant in the NRL at the start of the season with real strike. He will be a real danger in the England squad.
Halfbacks: Jack Welsby and George Williams
With no Jonny Lomax, Wane is left with Jack Welsby, George Williams and Marc Sneyd as his halfback options. Though Sneyd would offer great organisation, against the Combined Nations Wane went with Welsby and Williams and the two offered great running threat to sharpen the England attack. Welsby has been brilliant this year and named in the Dream Team and can conjure something from nothing as he did at Old Trafford against Leeds.
Props: Matty Lees and Luke Thompson
Welsby was one of St Helens’ stars in the Grand Final as was try scorer Matty Lees. He has formed into a brilliant prop over the last few seasons and is a real work horse who always has terrific linespeed which is an asset required in the international game. He will be next to the man he replaced as the St Helens’ number 10. Luke Thompson is one of the world’s best props at the moment and is a former Harry Sunderland Award winner. He has been one of the NRL’s top forwards and highly sought after. His physicality will be vital to England.
Hooker: Andy Ackers
On form, Andy Ackers has to be included in the side. Like lightning out of dummyhalf, he offers a real threat in attack and works nicely alongside the rest of the spine with sharp distribution. Michael McIlorum’s stern defence would make him a sound option as a starting nine however.
Second-Row: Joe Batchelor and Elliot Whitehead
With no John Bateman, the spot alongside Elliot Whitehead in the backrow is open for someone and it could be the in form Grand Final winning second row Joe Batchelor. A hard worker and an eye for a try, Batchelor could be built for international rugby alongside the brilliant Elliot Whitehead who is a certainty after his consistency in the NRL.
Loose-Forward: Morgan Knowles
Shaun Wane has a choice between two 13s but Morgan Knowles may get the nod for a reason I will outline later. But a real warrior, a hard worker and pace setter in the battle in the middle of the field, Knowles is the ideal middle for the modern international game.
Substitutes: Victor Radley, Mikolaj Oledzki, Tom Burgess and Mike McMeeken
But why will he get the nod over the brilliant Victor Radley, an NRL winner with Sydney. Radley’s versatility could see him named on the bench as he can cover hooker meaning England may not have to carry a nine on the bench making for a big bench complete with two props in the explosive Tom Burgess and Mikolaj Oledzki. Meanwhile, a powerful backrower like Mike McMeeken could complete the 17.