Head coach Wayne Bennett has today selected the 24-man squad that will represent England at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.
Captained by Sean O’Loughlin, the squad includes Luke Gale, who was crowned Steve Prescott MBE Man of Steel winner last week, Dally M Five-Eighth of the Year, Gareth Widdop and Super League’s top metre-maker, Alex Walmsley.
Super League Grand Final winners, Kallum Watkins and Ryan Hall are included. Between them, the experienced Leeds Rhinos duo have 52 international appearances. Hall debuted in 2009 and has gone to score 32 tries in 32 games. Watkins made his 20th appearance in May against Samoa.
Warrington Wolves’ Ben Currie is one of two (Walmsley) uncapped players called up by Bennett. Currie was selected in 2015 for the New Zealand Test Series but never picked in the starting 17.
St Helens hooker, James Roby also returns to the squad. Last featuring against New Zealand in 2015, this will be the 31-year-old’s third World Cup after representing England in 2008 and 2013.
The 24-man list features 18 players that travelled to Sydney in May for the mid-season Pacific Test against Samoa – a game in which England won 30-10 and saw tries from Ryan Hall, Jermaine McGillvary, James Graham, Josh Hodgson and Stefan Ratchford.
“Selecting the final 24 with the help of my coaching staff was tough and that was down to the effort and performances of many players throughout the season,” Bennett said.
“The competitiveness of Super League and NRL and knowing the goal of playing for your country in a World Cup has made many raise their game and become better athletes.
“The England programme has been very active leading into this tournament and having the squad meet up on regular occasions – on and off the field – has put us in a positive place before everyone gets into camp.
“We had to put the disappointment of the Four Nations behind us quickly and the meetings that followed that tournament set out what was required to be successful in the World Cup. Everyone has fully bought into this and we can’t wait to get started.”
John Bateman (6, Wigan Warriors, Bradford Dudley Hill)
Kevin Brown (6, Warrington Wolves, Thatto Heath Crusaders)
Sam Burgess (18, South Sydney Rabbitohs, Dewsbury Moor)
Thomas Burgess (14, South Sydney Rabbitohs, Dewsbury Moor)
Ben Currie (0, Warrington Wolves, Golborne Parkside)
Luke Gale (4, Castleford Tigers, Middleton Marauders)
James Graham (33, St George Illawarra Dragons, Blackbrook)
Ryan Hall (32, Leeds Rhinos, Oulton Raiders)
Chris Heighington (5, Cronulla Sharks, Umina Bunnies)
Chris Hill (19, Warrington Wolves, New Springs Lions)
Josh Hodgson (11, Canberra Raiders, East Hull)
Jonny Lomax (4, St Helens, Orrell St James)
Jermaine McGillvary (6, Huddersfield Giants, Deighton Juniors)
Mike McMeeken (1, Castleford Tigers, Staines Titans)
Sean O’Loughlin (18, Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Patricks)
Mark Percival (3, St Helens, Halton Farnworth Hornets)
Stefan Ratchford (2, Warrington Wolves, Wigan St Patricks)
James Roby (26, St Helens, Blackbrook)
Scott Taylor (2, Hull FC, Skirlaugh)
Alex Walmsley (0, St Helens, Dewsbury Celtic)
Kallum Watkins (20, Leeds Rhinos, Latchford Albion)
Elliott Whitehead (10, Canberra Raiders, West Bowling)
Gareth Widdop (21, St George Illawarra Dragons, King Cross)
George Williams (5, Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Patricks)
(Photo: James Roby. Credit: SWPix).