Bennett selects 17-man England squad

England head coach Wayne Bennett has selected his 17-man squad to take on Samoa and included debutants Mike McMeeken and Chris McQueen for the Pacific Test on Saturday, 6th May (10.40am BST).

McMeeken, who started his career at London Broncos, earned a call-up to the England Elite Performance Squad in January and has been one of the in-form back-rowers in the Betfred Super League for table-toppers Castleford Tigers.

McQueen, Gold Coast Titan second row and former teammate of Sam and Thomas Burgess, has impressed Bennett whilst in the England camp and has been given a chance to stake a claim for a place in the World Cup squad.

Zak Hardaker also features after last running out with the team in 2015’s International Series win over New Zealand. Chris Heighington returns to the starting 17 for the first time since playing against the Kiwis in the 2011 Four Nations.

Kevin Brown, a late call-up to the squad following an injury to George Williams, will partner with Luke Gale in the halves. They last played together against France in Avignon pre-Four Nations in October 2016.

“Samoa are a very good team – there’s a lot of top NRL players in their squad,” said Bennett.

“It’s not going to be easy for us – we weren’t looking for an easy game but we need to prove ourselves on Saturday. I’m really looking forward to it and I’m sure they are too because I know they’ve got a hard game in front of them.

“It’s been a really invaluable experience for all and essential to have all players here to prepare for what’s to come at the end of the year.

“It’s vital that the group spend time together and that I spend time with all the players during World Cup year. Some tough decisions were made when picking this team but this eight-day camp has been fantastic – the commitment shown has been second to none.

“Being over here bridges the gap between not playing for long periods as a national team and gives us an opportunity to sort out little issues which will enable us to hit the ground running in October.”

On the return of captain Sean O’Loughlin, who missed the Four Nations through injury, Bennett added: “I like the way he plays. He’s calm, a good professional and my type of player.”

ENGLAND 17-MAN SQUAD

1. Stefan Ratchford (Warrington Wolves)
2. Jermaine McGillvary (Huddersfield Giants)
3. Kallum Watkins (Leeds Rhinos)
4. Zak Hardaker (Castleford Tigers)
5. Ryan Hall (Leeds Rhinos)
6. Kevin Brown (Warrington Wolves)
7. Luke Gale (Castleford Tigers)
8. Sam Burgess (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
9. Josh Hodgson (Canberra Raiders)
10. James Graham (Canterbury Bulldogs)
11. Mike McMeeken (Castleford Tigers)
12. Elliott Whitehead (Canberra Raiders)
13. Sean O’Loughlin © (Wigan Warriors)
14. Chris Hill (Warrington Wolves)
15. Chris Heighington (Cronulla Sutherland Sharks)
16. Chris McQueen (Gold Coast Titans)
17. Thomas Burgess (South Sydney Rabbitohs)

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