The squad features 13 players who were involved in the semi-final stages of this season’s Engage Super League campaign and with 2011 seeing record number of under-21s appear in the domestic competition, Knights head coach Kieran Purtill believes that experience will stand the squad in good stead against France.
“It was very exciting to see so many young Knights players involved in the latter stages of the Super League season, especially during the semi-finals with players involved with all four teams,” said Purtill. “It’s an exciting time for England.
“This is a fresh group and there’s a lot of youth and excitement. It will be a challenge to get the blend right in a short space of time, but an enjoyable task and one that I hope we will build on in the coming years as well.
“It’s a testament to the work going on at all the clubs that we have so many talented players, all across the park, coming through the systems. It’s ultimately a good thing for England and hopefully come 2013, a lot of these Knights players will form the core of the senior squad.”
The implementation of the Knights programme this year has been identified by the coaching staff as the perfect way to bridge the gap between Youth and Senior representation and while he’s excited by the standard of players available to him, Purtill is under no illusion as to how tough France will be.
“Lots of our players have plenty of Super League experience under their belts, which stands them in good stead, but international games are a different level.
“A lot of our players may be in a position with their club where they aren’t the leaders, they have senior players like Jamie Peacock and Adrian Morley to follow, but those young lads will need to step-up and take on the mantle of being the dominant players in the Knights squad.
“It’s not just about on-the-pitch success either, the lads will be assessed on how they conduct themselves in camp. Steve McNamara will be keeping his eye on things and there’s every chance that these players could play their way into Four Nations contention.”
England coach Steve McNamara has been quick to re-iterate the words of Purtill and has made no secret that coveted places in the 2011 Four Nations squad will be available up until the very last minute.
“There’s a lot of talent coming through at the moment and it’s not just in the forwards where we’re traditionally strong,” said McNamara. “There are some great young backs and outside backs beginning to flourish and we’re really looking forward to seeing them work together and play well under the guidance of Kieran and Paul Anderson.
“It’s a real opportunity for these players to jump on the international ladder and stake their claims going forward. We have a 24-man squad for the Four Nations, but between now and the Four Nations starting, if we have any injuries or players have to withdraw then the Knights players will certainly have a great opportunity to force their way into contention.”
The Knights squad includes four players from Warrington Wolves, three players each from Wigan Warriors, Salford City Reds and St Helens whilst Hull FC, Hull KR and Leeds Rhinos all have two players selected. Bradford Bulls, Castleford Tigers and Harlequins RL all have one player in the Knights set-up.
The 22-man squad for the England Knights 2011 autumn programme (professional club and community club in brackets):
Joe Arundel (Castleford Tigers, Castleford Panthers)
Jodie Broughton (Salford City Reds, Queens)
Josh Charnley (Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Pats)
Chris Clarkson (Leeds Rhinos, East Leeds)
Paul Clough (St Helens, Blackbrook)
Mike Cooper (Warrington Wolves, Latchford Albion)
James Donaldson (Bradford Bulls, Wath Brow Hornets)
Liam Farrell (Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Pats)
Jamie Foster (St Helens, Blackbrook)
Luke Gale (Harlequins RL, Middleton Marauders)
Zak Hardaker (Leeds Rhinos, Featherstone Lions)
Ben Harrison (Warrington Wolves, Barrow Island)
Danny Houghton (Hull FC, East Hull)
Scott Moore (St Helens, Blackbrook)
Lee Mossop (Wigan Warriors, Hensingham)
Richie Myler (Warrington Wolves, Halton West Bank)
Stefan Ratchford (Salford City Reds, Wigan St Pats)
Chris Riley (Warrington Wolves, Woolston Rovers)
Matty Smith (Salford City Reds, Blackbrook)
Liam Watts (Hull KR, Featherstone Lions)
Kris Welham (Hull KR, Myton Warriors)
Joe Westerman (Hull FC, Featherstone Lions)
The England Knights will play France at Leigh Sports Village, Saturday October 15 (3.00pm). Tickets for the game cost £3 adult and £2 concession and can be purchased at the turnstile on the day.