England Rugby League boss Wayne Bennett has named a provisional 21 man squad for Friday’s World cup opener against the hosts and current holders Australia in Melbourne on Friday.
St Helens Fullback Jonny Lomax is expected to retain his number one shirt after missing the mid season test against Samoa and last week’s warm up game against a Combined Affiliated States team. Ryan Hall and Jermaine McGillvary will take their places on the wings with Kallum Watkins and Wigan’s John Bateman in the centres. Although Bateman is a backrow forward by trade, he does have previous experience in the centres with both Wigan and England.
The back line is completed with the NRL’s halfback of the year Gareth Widdop will partner Super Leagues Man of Steel in the halves, the pair have scored over 400 points for their respective club sides this season.
The English pack is where this game will be won or lost, as England boast world class players throughout! Veteran front rower James Graham will partner fellow Prop Chris Hill and Canberra Hooker Josh Hodgson in the front row, with Sam Burgess and Elliot Whitehead combining in the back row and Skipper Sean O’Loughlin packing down at Loose forward.
Alex Walmsley who is the only uncapped player named in the squad, is expected to make an entrance from the bench, the man mountain who has been enjoyed two seasons with St Helens has been Super Leagues top Meter maker for two years running and was extremely unlucky not to be included in this year’s Dream Team. He will be joined by South Sydney Prop forward George Burgess and fellow St Helens hooker James Roby, who has earned a recall to the international scene after two years out. The final place on the bench is expected to go to another player earning a recall after a few years in the wilderness, Cronulla Sharks back rower Chris Heighington.
The stand by players who make up the rest of the 21 man squad are uncapped pair of Ben Currie and Mark Percival, along with Scott Taylor and Kevin Brown.
England Rugby League 21-man squad to play Australia:
Jonny Lomax, Jermaine McGillvary, Kallum Watkins, John Bateman, Ryan Hall, Gareth Widdop, Luke Gale, Chris Hill, Josh Hodgson, James Graham, Sam Burgess, Elliott Whitehead, Sean O’Loughlin, Alex Walmsley, Chris Heighington, Thomas Burgess, James Roby, Ben Currie, Kevin Brown, Mark Percival, Scott Taylor