St Helens and England have received a huge boost with Alex Walmsley preparing to make his return from a long-term injury.
Walmsley, 33, was expected to miss the remainder of the season after suffering an MCL injury following a tackle from John Asiata during the Challenge Cup semi-final with Leigh Leopards.
The veteran prop required surgery, with Asiata’s tackle technique questioned by Saints boss Paul Wellens as Agnatius Paasi also suffered a season-ending injury.
31-year-old Paasi was ruled out for up to nine months with ACL, MCL and ankle ligament injuries.
In a huge boost for the four-peat champions ahead of the play-offs, influential forward Walmsley has been named in their 21-man squad to face Hull FC in the final regular round of the Super League campaign.
Will Hopoate, Konrad Hurrell and George Delaney have also been included for the clash at the Totally Wicked Stadium. The four replace Lewis Baxter, Tee Ritson, Matthew Foster and Wesley Bruines following the 18-6 win over Warrington Wolves in Round 26.
Huge boost for England
The potential return is also a huge boost for England boss Shaun Wane ahead of the end-of-year test series against Tonga, heading to St Helens, Huddersfield and Leeds later in October and November.
Walmsley has won six caps for England to date, but missed last year’s delayed World Cup on home soil through injury. He made four appearances at the 2017 campaign Down Under under then-coach Wayne Bennett.
He was named in Wane’s extended 40-man squad earlier in April, but did not feature in the 64-0 mid-season win over France at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
Leeds’ Tom Holroyd and Wigan’s Ethan Havard were named as starting front-rowers in Warrington, with Tyler Dupree and James Harrison on the interchange bench.
A return to action could see Walmsley in Wane’s plans for the first-ever series between England and Tonga, and the first tie since the memorable 2017 World Cup semi-final.