Shaun Wane has named his 24-man England squad for the Rugby League World Cup.
It was always going to be difficult for Wane with Alex Walmsley, Liam Farrell and Harry Newman ruled out with injuries.
Making matters worse, Jonny Lomax and Mark Percival were yesterday ruled out of the squad. Lomax has managed a ruptured bicep for half a season whilst Percival has only just returned from a knee injury and has been told by specialists not to play after suffering what he described as “setbacks” on Twitter.
So missing three of St Helens’ – the four time reigning Champions – best players, England will also be without Saints skipper James Roby through international retirement.
Widely described as Super League’s greatest ever team, lacking those four is a bitter blow for England given how important they are to Saints’ best ever side.
Turning to the squad itself, there is still a sizeable St Helens contingent:
Sam Tomkins has been confirmed as England’s World Cup captain and will lead a squad including five members of the St Helens team who were crowned Betfred Super League champions last weekend, another 11 players who were involved in the Play-Offs – including the uncapped Salford Red Devils duo Andy Ackers and Marc Sneyd – and three forwards whose clubs were involved in the NRL Play-Offs in Australia.
Tom Burgess of South Sydney and Elliott Whitehead of Canberra Raiders, two Yorkshiremen who have 45 England caps between them – and were both involved in the England squad which reached the final of the last World Cup in Australia in 2017 – are joined by Victor Radley, the Sydney Roosters forward who declared his desire to represent his father’s Sheffield roots earlier this year.
There are three more players based in the NRL in the 24: Luke Thompson, the former St Helens front-row who joined Canterbury Bulldogs two years ago; Dom Young, the 21-year-old wing who has made such an impact with Newcastle Knights this season; and Herbie Farnworth, a Lancastrian who joined Brisbane Broncos as a teenager.
Wane has selected three English players now based in France with the Catalans Dragons as Mike McMeeken and Michael McIlorum join Tomkins in the squad.
The squad includes eight players who were involved in the 2017 World Cup, and Burgess is one of four who will be playing in their third World Cup.
The others are Salford’s Kallum Watkins, the Huddersfield Giants prop Chris Hill, and the Hull KR wing Ryan Hall, who has the opportunity of adding to his record tally of 35 England tries.
Ackers, Sneyd, Farnworth, Radley and Young are joined by Kai Pearce-Paul, the 21-year-old Wigan Warriors forward who started playing Rugby League with Croydon Hurricanes, as the six members of the squad who have never previously worn a senior England shirt.
England will play a World Cup warm-up match against Fiji at the AJ Bell Stadium in Salford next Friday (October 7), before they begin their World Cup campaign against Samoa at St James’ Park in Newcastle on Saturday October 15 – the opening match of the tournament.
Shaun Wane, the England Head Coach, said: “After so many conversations with the players over the last two years, it’s exciting for all of us to be getting ready to go into camp for a home World Cup.
“The mood of the players and staff is fantastic. The opening match against Samoa in Newcastle is going to be a massive occasion, and I know English Rugby League fans and the sporting public will get behind us.”
England World Cup squad
Sam Tomkins (Catalans)
Andy Ackers (Salford)
Joe Batchelor (St Helens)
John Bateman (Wigan)
Tom Burgess (South Sydney)
Mike Cooper (Wigan)
Herbie Farnworth (Brisbane)
Ryan Hall (Hull KR)
Chris Hill (Huddersfield)
Morgan Knowles (St Helens)
Matty Lees (St Helens)
Tommy Makinson (St Helens)
Michael McIlorum (Catalans)
Mike McMeeken (Catalans)
Mikolaj Oledzki (Leeds)
Kai Pearce-Paul (Wigan)
Victor Radley (Sydney)
Marc Sneyd (Salford)
Luke Thompson (Canterbury)
Kallum Watkins (Salford)
Jack Welsby (St Helens)
Elliott Whitehead (Canberra)
George Williams (Warrington)
Dom Young (Newcastle)