7 notable form absentees from England squad including Salford Red Devils trio

Aaron Bower
Ollie Partington, Josh Thewlis, Junior Nsemba England Alamy

From left to right: Ollie Partington (Salford), Josh Thewlis (Warrington) and Junior Nsemba (Wigan) in action

Shaun Wane’s England squad for the upcoming Test against France features a blend of experience, youth and some of Super League’s best in-form talent – reflected by the fact there are six debutants in the 20-man squad.

The likes of Sam Wood and Elliot Minchella have been rewarded for their fine form at club level in recent months with a first senior call-up, but there’s several other individuals in that bracket who have missed the cut.

It remains possible some of those players have picked up knocks or have withdrawn from selection contention, with Wane set to provide an update later in the week. But for now, here’s seven we think are unfortunate to have missed out for England.

Oliver Partington (Salford Red Devils)

Ollie Partington Salford Red Devils Alamy
Salford Red Devils’ Ollie Partington

Privately, you suspect Salford Red Devils will be relieved that they do not have a single player in contention for this weekend’s Test – as it gives them the opportunity to have a well-earned rest.

But when looking at form forwards across Super League in the last few months, Oliver Partington’s name is constantly near the top of the list. Partington has been outstanding and a real leader for the Red Devils’ pack as they establish themselves as a legitimate Old Trafford contender.

Marc Sneyd (Salford Red Devils)

Marc Sneyd Salford Red Devils Alamy

Sticking with Salford, and arguably the form half-back in the whole competition. Sneyd provides something no other England half-back really can with boot to ball, and he’s certainly playing well enough to be in England contention.

The one thing that perhaps goes against him? His age. Wane admitted last week he would be picking with a nod to the future and the 2026 World Cup and at the age of 33, perhaps that’s why he’s been overlooked.

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Josh Thewlis (Warrington Wolves)

Josh Thewlis Warrington Wolves Alamy

There are certainly some surprises in the outside backs in Wane’s squad, with Castleford’s Sam Wood and Leeds’ Harry Newman call-ups some may not have predicted before the squad announcement.

But Thewlis is perhaps fortunate to miss out when you consider how well he’s performed for Warrington this season. A consistent star on the wing for Sam Burgess’ side, his time for England will surely come: but it won’t be this summer.

Junior Nsemba (Wigan Warriors)

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

Arguably the biggest surprise of them all is the fact Nsemba, the form back-rower across the whole of Super League, hasn’t been included whatsoever.

Whether it’s injury-related or simply a question of Wane deciding now isn’t the time for Nsemba’s first call-up, it certainly ranks as a surprise that the Wigan Warriors forward isn’t in the group heading to France this weekend. But like Thewlis, he will categorically get an England opportunity at some stage in the future, you suspect.

Sam Halsall (Huddersfield Giants)

Adam Swift, Sam Halsall
Adam Swift (left) & Sam Halsall (right) celebrate a Huddersfield Giants win in 2024

With some shock picks in the outside backs, another who’s been playing well and perhaps going under the radar in those positions is Huddersfield’s Sam Halsall.

While 2024 has been a disappointing one for the Giants as a collective, Halsall has been one of the bright spots in Ian Watson’s side on a weekly basis.

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Deon Cross (Salford Red Devils)

Deon Cross
Deon Cross – Alamy

Again, another contender for the outside backs – and another man who has been consistently brilliant for Salford Red Devils all season long. Cross has emerged as one of the most consistently impressive backs in Super League in recent years, and was one that was quietly being tipped to have caught Wane’s eye.

However, he’s missed out along with his other Salford team-mates hoping to make the cut this weekend.

Liam Marshall (Wigan Warriors)

Liam Marshall
Liam Marshall scores a try for Wigan Warriors in 2024

It seems incredible to think that Marshall, one of Super League’s best wingers for a prolonged period of time, has yet to win a first international cap for England.

That moment is surely coming in the not-too-distant future, and it seemed likely the France game would be the ideal time to hand him an inaugural cap. However, Marshall has to bide his time once again amidst some high-profile competition for the wing spots.

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