Expect strong England squad for McNamara bow

New England coach Steve McNamara will announce his 19-man squad on 1st June, for the now customary mid-season international against France. And all the indications are that McNamara intends to choose the strongest available squad, for his first and only England fixture before the end of season Four Nations tournament down under.

Gareth Ellis and Sam Burgess fly back from Australia for the game, so barring last minute injuries, are likely to play at least some part in the game. McNamara said of the pair, “Both Sam and Gareth were instrumental in the progress we made during last year’s Gillette Four Nations and have key roles to play in building on that momentum. We have kept close tabs on their progress in the NRL and are delighted by their form in 2010. I’m looking forward to working with them both again.”

Having worked alongside former England coach Tony Smith, McNamara is unlikley to make sweeping changes to the rest of the squad, which should be largely based on that assembled for last year’s Four Nations tournament. Now, as then, the coach will put his faith in some of the games rising stars, as he continues to build a side that he hopes will be capable of winning the 2013 World Cup.

Of those youngsters, Richie Myler will sit the game out through injury, paving the way for Sam Tomkins and Kyle Eastmond to renew their half-back partnership. Also sitting the game out is current England captain, Jamie Peacock, who is still several weeks away from a return.

If Steve McNamara does base the side of last year’s squad, then current form may become a secondary consideration. That would mean disappointment for the likes of Huddersfield’s David Hodgson, and Warrington’s Chris Riley, who currently head the Super League try scoring chart.

However, McNamara will find it hard to disregard the league’s form players on the basis that they didn’t feature last time out, and should give new opportunities to Wigan’s Joel Tomkins, Bradford’s Andy Lynch and Warrington’ Ryan Atkins, whilst handing a recall to Wigan’s Sean O’Loughlin, who missed out on last year’s Four Nations tournament through injury.

My predicted squad would be:

Lee Smith (Leeds)
David Hodgson (Huddersfield)
Ryan Hall (Leeds)
Tom Briscoe (Hull)
Ryan Atkins (Warrington)
Chris Bridge (Warrington)
Sam Tomkins (Wigan)
Danny McGuire (Leeds)
Kyle Eastmond (St Helens)
James Graham (St Helens)
Adrian Morley (Warrington)
Andy Lynch (Braford)
Eorl Crabtree (Huddersfield)
James Roby (St Helens)
Kevin Sinfield (Leeds)
Gareth Ellis (Wests Tigers)
Sam Burgess (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
Joel Tomkins (Wigan)
Sean O’Loughlin (Wigan)

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