Today has seen the England set-up for this season revealed with both the elite training and Paul Anderson’s revived England Knights squads announced.
Eight Super League teams are represented in the elite squad with eleven in the Knights squad with only Catalans lacking a player in the Knights player list. Interestingly, despite his strong start to the season, Wigan’s Sam Tomkins has been overlooked for the premier squad – perhaps a nod to giving youngsters the chance to stake a claim for a long England career in the full back berth. Indeed, Stefan Ratchford and Jonny Lomax are the two number ones in the elite setup with the former likely to be a first choice with the latter a probably starter in the role in future.
There is international recognition for the first time for Wakefield Trinity’s flying winger Tom Johnstone who has started the season in great form as his team stormed to four consecutive victories to start their campaign. Also likely to make his international debut throughout 2018 is Leeds Rhinos second rower Stevie Ward. The 24 year old withdrew from the England RLWC squad last winter to undergo off season surgery to fix his shoulder after a dislocation in the Super League semi final and features in the squad alongside fellow Rhinos Ryan Hall and Kallum Watkins.
Hull FC’s sole representative in the EPS is prop Scott Taylor with Liam Watts overlooked once more and, surprisingly to some, Airlie Birds’ full back Jamie Shaul has been named in the Knights player list while many believe he should be in the EPS with his teammate. However, in the Knights Performance Squad, he is alongside Jake Connor, Josh Bowden, Dean Hadley and Masimbaashe Matongo with Connor another name this writer believes should be in the Elites. However, both are highly likely to earn senior international recognition throughout their careers. Youngster Jack Walker is also called into the KPS after a promising start to his career with Leeds Rhinos, starring at full back in last year’s Grand Final.
Elite Performance Squad
Luke Gale, Mike McMeeken (Castleford Tigers), Jermaine McGillvary (Huddersfield Giants), Scott Taylor (Hull FC), Ryan Hall, Stevie Ward, Kallum Watkins (Leeds Rhinos), Jonny Lomax, Tommy Makinson, Mark Percival, James Roby, Alex Walmsley (St Helens), Tom Johnstone (Wakefield Trinity), Kevin Brown, Daryl Clark, Ben Currie, Chris Hill, Stefan Ratchford (Warrington Wolves), John Bateman, Sean O’Loughlin, George Williams (Wigan Warriors).
Knights Performance Squad
Greg Minikin, Jake Trueman (Castleford Tigers), Kruise Leeming (Huddersfield Giants), Josh Bowden, Jake Connor, Dean Hadley, Masimbaashe Matongo, Jamie Shaul (Hull FC), Chris Atkin (Hull KR), Liam Sutcliffe, Jack Walker (Leeds Rhinos), James Cunningham (London Broncos), Niall Evalds (Salford Red Devils), Danny Richardson, Luke Thompson (St Helens), Reece Lyne (Wakefield Trinity), Jack Hughes (Warrington Wolves), Tom Gilmore, Danny Walker, Matt Whitley (Widnes Vikings), Joe Burgess, Tom Davies, Oliver Gildart, Sam Powell, Ryan Sutton (Wigan Warriors).