Rugby league never does it simple, as the England Elite squad process shows.
Instead of announcing the whole squad together, 17 players are selected, causing a bit of confusion amongst the media and fans alike.
But this is not the full squad. It is merely an initial section of players as part of the RFL’s new Elite training initiative, which is supposed to bring a number of benefits for the international team.
“The players will benefit from access to world leading facilities, individualised player development plans and improved sports science throughout the season.”
So that’s cleared that up then…
The 17 included no full backs, only one winger (Tom Briscoe) and no Leon Pryce. But why is everyone panicking as if this is the 17 we’re sending out to do battle with Australia?!
For what it’s worth, the next test is against France in Paris on June 13. It’s going to be interesting, particularly after the French’s miserable showing in the World Cup and Catalans less than average start to this season’s Super League campaign.
It’s great to see in-form youngsters, who don’t necessarily play for the big boys being given a chance by Tony Smith. Richard Myler, Joe Westerman, Michael Shenton and Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook are undoubtedly the future of the England side, and that’s not forgetting the relatively experienced Sam Burgess, despite the fact the Bradford forward is a mere 20 years of age.
Ryan Atkins, James Graham, James Roby and Jon Wilkin are also very solid picks and four of the most consistent performers in Super League.
Jamie Peacock and Adrian Morley provide the experience and muscle, but I’m not convinced about the selection of Ben Westwood, although that is perhaps one of the perks of being coached at club level by your international boss.
So who else to join the party? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out Leon Pryce will be the shoe-in for the stand-off shirt, despite the presence of Danny McGuire, and there is still space for a back-up hooker and a number of three-quarters. Back-up hooker in my opinion should go to Ryan Hudson, if injury free, although Scott Moore has been making good progress this year. However, the likelihood is Terry Newton will get the call, providing he isn’t too tired having carried Bradford for much of the year.
Shaun Briscoe and Paul Wellens, subject to availability, are the two no-brainers for full backs and outwide, there may be time for an early call-up for try machine Shaun Ainscough. After all, if he can do it for Wigan, why can’t he do it for England?
Richard Owen is an outsider, Ade Gardner a probable while Chris Riley of Warrington may be a long shot. In the centres, Martin Gleeson should make it, despite his indifferent form, but he will struggle to get in the team with Atkins and Shenton to fight with. The versatile Rob Purdham is worth a selection and maybe Stephen Wild.
England v France selection: Briscoe, Gardner, Shenton, Atkins, Smith, Pryce, Myler, Peacock, Roby, Graham, Wilkin, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Westerman. Subs: McGuire, Newton, Burgess, Fa’asavalu.