7 England hopefuls whose outstanding Super League form could earn them Test debut

Aaron Bower
Elliot Minchella, Josh Thewlis and Brad O'Neill

With confirmation that England will face Samoa at the end of this season in a two-Test series, it has already started speculation about who could make the cut for Shaun Wane’s squad.

There is still a Test against France to get out of the way first later this month, but there will be a number of players whose early-season form in Super League has perhaps played them into contention of a first international cap.

Here’s seven who could well be under consideration to win a Test debut for England this year.

Elliot Minchella (Hull KR)

Elliot Minchella Hull KR Alamy
Elliot Minchella in action for Hull KR in 2024

The beating heart of Rovers’ pack on a near-weekly basis, Minchella has felt like a player on the cusp of an international call-up for a good 18 months or so.

Minchella has a slight issue in that there are a number of more established England players in front of him in his position, most notably the likes of Morgan Knowles and Victor Radley. But if Wane is looking to the future – and indeed, looking to reward players who are consistent at domestic level – Minchella will surely be in his thinking.

There aren’t many more consistent forwards than him across the competition.

Josh Thewlis (Warrington Wolves)

Josh Thewlis Warrington Wolves Alamy

England are blessed with top-quality wingers at present. The likes of Tom Johnstone, Tom Davies, Ryan Hall and Matty Ashton have all made senior appearances for the England side in recent years.

But Thewlis is emerging as a real talent of both the present and the future with Warrington Wolves. He has flourished under Sam Burgess this season to become one of the most eye-catching and impressive wingers in Super League.

An England call-up is surely beckoning one day. Will it come this year?

Brad O’Neill (Wigan Warriors)

Kris Radlinski, Brad O'Neill
Wigan CEO Kris Radlinski shares an embrace with Warriors starlet Brad O’Neill following the club’s 2023 Super League Grand Final triumph

With Danny Walker and Daryl Clark well-established as England’s two senior hookers nowadays, there’s a bit of work to do for anyone outside of that duo to force their way into Wane’s 17 at Test level.

But if anyone can, it’s surely a player who has already won every domestic honour available by the age of 21. O’Neill has become a genuine star of Matt Peet’s all-conquering Warriors, and he’s pushing hard for a first Test cap as early as this year.

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Cameron Smith (Leeds Rhinos)

Cameron Smith

It’s not been a season to remember for the Rhinos so far in 2024. But their captain is one of the few who seems to emerge with credit no matter how the team perform under Rohan Smith.

He’s been a consistent performer in Super League for so long that it’s hard to believe he hasn’t had a senior Test cap by now. But time is still on his side – the one thing going against him is the same issue Minchella has: quality and depth in his position.

But if he continues to perform at club level, Wane will certainly notice.

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Matt Whitley (St Helens)

Matt Whitley
Matt Whitley in action for St Helens

Given how consistent and impressive Whitley has been for a number of years, it’s incredible to consider he doesn’t yet have an England cap to his name.

Of course, there has been a setback for Whitley recently, with news that he will miss an extended period over the summer due to shoulder surgery. But if he returns in the same form as which he began life a St Helens player, he’ll certainly give Wane something to think about.

Junior Nsemba (Wigan Warriors)

Junior Nsemba Wigan Warriors Alamy
Junior Nsemba in action for Wigan Warriors in 2024

Naturally, no list of this type could be complete without arguably the hottest prospect of them all in Super League in 2024.

Nsemba has been a revelation and has quickly become an integral figure under Peet at Wigan. It seems as though it is a matter of when, not if, the back-rower gets his first senior Test call-up.

Expect him to be an England player at some point this year.

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Liam Marshall (Wigan Warriors)

Liam Marshall Wigan Warriors Alamy
Liam Marshall in action for Wigan Warriors

It’s incredible to think that Marshall is still awaiting his first Test call-up: but surely, that moment will arrive in the coming months.

One of Super League’s most consistent and outstanding wingers for a number of years now, Marshall’s form rarely goes unnoticed. Wing is arguably the most competitive position in the entire England squad; even without the Super League-based talent to consider, there’s still Dom Young, who will surely be on one wing for the national team long-term.

But whether it’s against France or Samoa, you suspect Marshall will surely be given a run-out at some stage.

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