Before Friday’s clash with the Combined Nations All-Stars, Shaun Wane suggested he’d pick a squad based on form. Although some of his decisions were no doubt influenced by form, many believed he stuck with the tried and tested rather than rewarding players for their recent performances.
So, today we’re giving you what Shaun Wane’s England team would’ve looked like if he’d have based it on form alone as many people hoped he would.
Fullback: Sam Tomkins
Many may argue that Jake Connor should be awarded this spot in the side. In fact, plenty were furious that he didn’t feature in the squad at all which eventually resulted in him pulling on the Combined Nations jersey against England on Friday. That said, there can be no doubt that Sam Tomkins is the in-form fullback in Super League. In the early rounds of the season, his magic propelled Catalans to victories in games they weren’t dominating like they’d have hoped and against former club Wigan in their biggest game of the season so far, he ripped the Warriors to shreds. Now a much more mature player than when he won the Man of Steel back in 2012, he could very well be enjoying his career-best form.
Wingers: Adam Swift and Ryan Hall
Let’s be honest, right now you’re never not going to pick Tommy Makinson for England. When fit, he’s the world’s best winger for me. However, his fitness has derailed his form this season whilst Swift and Hall have had no such problems. Ryan Hall – once upon a time officially the world’s best winger – has 13 Super League tries to his name and is well and truly back to his best at Hull KR. He’s nailing the basics as always, scoring tries for fun and is a real leader for the Robins. He’s also the league’s top metre maker. Across the city at Hull FC, Swift is also impressing. He’s well in the hunt for the top try scorer award along with Hall and is proficient in every aspect of a winger’s game.
Centres: Jack Welsby and Toby King
Like Swift and Hall, King is up near the top of the try scoring charts with nine tries to his name so far this season. The Warrington centre just keeps getting better and also has four assists to his name. He oozes class and is superb in both defence and attack I just hope he’s fit and firing in time for the World Cup. As for Welsby, well he’s surely headed for the Young Player of the Year Award. After winning last year’s Grand Final with a dramatic last minute try, he’s lived up to the hype in 2021 wherever he’s played. He’s outperformed teammates Mark Percival and Kevin Naiqama at centre and has six tries and six assists to his name already this year.
Halves: Jonny Lomax and Jordan Abdull
Two of the front-runners in the chase for the Man of Steel, these two have been a cut above this season. Abdull has been a superb leader for a Hull KR side who have impressed many this year. He’s the creative hub in the attacking machine put together by Tony Smith. He’s already got 12 assists to his name and has a superb kicking game. Meanwhile, Jonny Lomax has 11 assists this season and has at times dragged St Helens out of sticky situations with his ability to create something when they need it most.
Props: Mikolaj Oledzki and Alex Walmsley
Alongside Hull FC’s Chris Satae, Oledzki has been Super League’s best prop this season. He’s explosive when running at defenders, solid in defence, intelligent in the way he carries the ball and is a grafter producing an 80-minute performance against rivals Wigan earlier this season. As for Walmsley, he may not be in his career best form but such is his quality even when not at his best he’s still exceptional.
Hooker: Paul McShane
This spot could very well have gone to Daryl Clark, but McShane has showed this season why he’s the reigning Man of Steel. He makes Castleford tick and without him the Tigers wouldn’t be headed to Wembley or be in the play-off picture. With such a wide skillset, he offers almost anything from dummy half.
Second-rowers: Ben Currie and Liam Farrell
There’s no second-row I enjoy watching more than Ben Currie. Explosive and skilful, he’s a forward with just about every attribute. Very few second-rows can claim to be able to conjure up a match winning play but he can and did in victory over St Helens with the only try of the game. As for Farrell, well he’s undergoing something of a renaissance at Wigan. There’s very few players better at hitting a gap and ever fewer as stern in defence as the Wigan number 12.
Loose-Forward: George King
I’ve been really impressed by the Hull KR pack this year and especially with King. He may not be the biggest but his work-rate and dynamism gives the Robins something extra in the middle of the park. I love watching him play.
Substitutes: Daryl Clark, Jordan Lane, Joe Cator, Mike Cooper
As for the bench, Clark is an easy pick. In terms of sheer quality he’s probably the best number nine in the league and has been in fine form this season creating and scoring some wonderful tries such as his score against Castleford earlier this season. Warrington teammate Mike Cooper also continues to impress me. He was outstanding last season making the Super League Dream Team and has carried that form into this campaign. Then there’s Hull FC duo Jordan Lane and Joe Cator. The pair have been outstanding this season and have dovetailed brilliantly. I very nearly picked Lane as the starting loose-forward and he’d be deserving of the role the way he’s marshalled the middle third of the pitch for Hull this season. He and Cator offer great tenacity and work-rate.