Which Wigan players may be heading to the World Cup?
This Friday will be 10 weeks until the start of the World Cup.
England are one of 14 teams taking part in the tournament Down Under, which runs from October 27 to December 2.
Prop Ben Flower (Wales) and full-back Morgan Escare (France) are unlikely to play after suffering season-ending injuries with the Warriors.
But several others are hoping to figure - here’s a glance at their prospects...
Now on loan at Catalans, the utility back made his Bravehearts debut in last year’s Four Nations and caught the eye with some sparkling wing performances. He qualifies through a grandparent. Wiganer Steve McCormack, an assistant coach at the Warriors, will again take charge of the Scots, who face tough opposition Samoa, Tonga and New Zealand.
The prop has returned home to Catalans on loan after failing to make an impact at Wigan. He played for France against England last year and would appear a likely candidate for the French squad, which has a tough pool against Lebanon, Australia and England.
The classy centre’s No.1 aim is to play for England, but he has the safety net of a likely Italy place if not – he has already spoken to the management. Gildart qualifies through a grandparent and says he has his own small fan-club in Italy who track his career. Italy, one of the surprise packets in the 2013 Cup, play Ireland, USA and Fiji.
Once New Zealand’s youngest international, the 2008 World Cup winner would appear an outside chance for a Kiwi spot. But he was in the frame for a mid-season Test this year - only injury ruled him out - and his ability to play half or hooker may help land him a place. The Kiwis face Samoa, Scotland and Tonga. Frank Paul Nuuausala has already said his international days are behind him.
Interestingly, Taulima Tautai was named in both the Samoa and New Zealand squad for 2008, but failed to play for either through injury! He hasn’t played for Samoa and it may seem unlikely now, but he has an outside chance. Born in Sydney, he qualifies through his parents. As an aside, Anthony Gelling’s Cook Islands failed to qualify for the tournament.
The tough hooker has played in the last two World Cups - for two different countries. His England chances appear slim – Josh Hodgson, Daryl Clark, Danny Houghton and James Roby appear ahead of him – but don’t rule out a return to the Ireland squad, the team he played with at the 2008 tournament. He qualifies through a grandparent. They play Italy, Papua New Guinea and Wales.
He turns 35 before the World Cup finishes but Wayne Bennett didn’t hesitate to name him his captain for the tournament, ahead of Sam Burgess. “He’s my kind of player, there’s no drama-queen about him,” said Bennett, who handed O’Loughlin the captaincy for the mid-season Test win against Samoa. He will be keeping his fingers crossed he stays fit.
The full-back has missed the last two autumn international tournaments through injury and is desperate to return to the national side. Tomkins, 28, has made a successful return to action with Wigan this season but faces competition for the England No.1 shirt from Jonny Lomax and Zak Hardaker, while Warrington’s Stefan Ratchford did a good job in the role in May.
The winger made his England debut two years ago and may be a contender for a recall this year.
Huddersfield’s Jermaine McGillvary and Leeds stalwart Ryan Hall have been Bennett’s first-choice wingers, but Burgess would appear to be next in line after a successful comeback campaign with Wigan this year following his season in the NRL.
Injury ruled him out of the mid-season Test against Samoa, when he was playing well for Wigan. His form has dipped since then, but he still looks a safe bet for a place in the England squad. It will be interesting to see who Bennett chooses in the halfback roles, with Gareth Widdop (St George Illawarra) and Luke Gale (Castleford) also in the mix.
He made his Test debut as a centre but will be hoping to pin down a second-row spot in the World Cup, having made a limited impact last year.
Like Tomkins, Bateman has made a successful return to the Wigan side in mid-season after overcoming an injury setback. England open the tournament against Australia in Melbourne on October 27.
The forward was the subject of a debate in May when he was left out of the squad, while two Australians – Chris McQueen and Chris Heighington – both played. They qualified through their parents. Farrell was barely used in last year’s Four Nations but will be hoping he has done enough for Wigan this season to catch Bennett’s eye.