Two Warriors in England squad
Two Wigan players have been named in the England squad for the mid-season Test against Samoa.
Sean O’Loughlin and George Williams are in the 20-man squad for the game in Sydney next month.
O’Loughlin has been handed the captaincy ahead of Sam Burgess, who was skipper in his absence in the Four Nations last autumn.
Williams, John Bateman, Liam Farrell and Joe Burgess also played in the Four Nations last year, as well as departed Warrior Dan Sarginson.
Bateman was not considered for this squad as he, and Sam Tomkins, are injured.
Farrell and Burgess have been in good early-season form for Wigan.
But both has been overlooked, and in Farrell’s case, it may prove a talking point after Wayne Bennett decided to include two Australian-born forwards.
Chris Heighington, 34, previously played for England in 2011, while former Queensland State of Origin representative Chris McQueen is also in the panel.
McQueen, who has never previously been included, qualifies through an English dad.
Williams has put in some sparkling performances this year, and will be hoping to get the nod to start the game at halfback alongside Gareth Widdop – one of the NRL’s star performers this season.
The 22-year-old’s biggest challenge will come from Castleford’s Luke Gale, who is also in the squad – intriguingly, they go head-to-head this Saturday night.
The England players involved in that match fly out to Sydney on Sunday morning – a day later than the bulk of the Super League players.
Bennett agreed to cap his selections to a maximum of three per club, as Super League games take place on the same weekend as England play Samoa in Sydney on Saturday May 6.
With Thomas Leuluai possibly sidelined by a jaw injury suffered yesterday, and Jake Shorrocks out for the year, Williams’ call-up will leave Shaun Wane short of halfback options for their game against Salford on Friday May 5.
England’s Test against Samoa will be screened behind a paywall on the RFL’s website after the game’s governing body rejected the BBC’s offer to televise the game.
The squad is made up of 12 players from the Betfred Super League and eight from the NRL.
Bennett said: “This is a strong squad that I believe has the talent to do well. The game against Samoa will be tough - they have some good players and plenty of spirit but this gives everyone in our squad the opportunity to show what they can do ahead of the World Cup.
“I’m very pleased that we have this chance to play mid-season. It gives the team a chance to work and spend time together and allows my coaching team and I the opportunity to take a closer look at how the players can rise to the challenge of playing against a tough and uncompromising opponent.
“There are some quality players left behind in England who have either just missed out or been ruled out through injury and this game enables me to look at some of those who haven’t been in the squad before.”
England squad for the Pacific Test Match against Samoa (professional and community club shown):
Sam Burgess (South Sydney Rabbitohs, Dewsbury Moor)
Thomas Burgess (South Sydney Rabbitohs, Dewsbury Moor)
Luke Gale (Castleford Tigers, Middleton Marauders)
James Graham (Canterbury Bulldogs, Blackbrook)
Ryan Hall (Leeds Rhinos, Oulton Raiders)
Zak Hardaker (Castleford Tigers, Featherstone Lions)
Chris Heighington (Cronulla Sutherland Sharks, Umina Bunnies)
Chris Hill (Warrington Wolves, New Springs Lions)
Josh Hodgson (Canberra Raiders, East Hull)
Jermaine McGillvary (Huddersfield Giants, Deighton Juniors)
Mike McMeeken (Castleford Tigers, Staines Titans)
Chris McQueen (Gold Coast Titans. Wynnum Manly Seagulls)
Sean O’Loughlin (C) (Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Patricks)
Mark Percival (St Helens, Halton Farnworth Hornets)
Scott Taylor (Hull FC, Skirlaugh)
Alex Walmsley (St Helens, Dewsbury Celtic)
Kallum Watkins (Leeds Rhinos, Latchford Albion)
Elliott Whitehead (Canberra Raiders, West Bowling)
Gareth Widdop (St. George Illawarra Dragons, King Cross)
George Williams (Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Patricks)