There are some top players who have yet to receive international honours for England, along with a plethora of young talent starting to make a name for themselves. Let’s take a look…
Danny Houghton (Hull FC)
The 2016 Man of Steel winner has certainly been one of the Super League’s top tacklers in the last few years, winning the league’s top hitman award four times in six years for most tackles in a season. Even despite being an original member of the England elite performance squad for the World Cup alongside teammate Jamie Shaul, the Airlie Birds hooker has found an England call up with the likes of Josh Hodgson and Daryl Clark in the squad a hard task to come by. There were probably many left scratching their heads after Houghton was snubbed for the World Cup, especially after two straight Challenge Cup winning seasons alongside a Man of Steel win. However, seemingly in the prime and best form of his career, Houghton looks ready more than ever to step up to the international stage.
Jamie Shaul (Hull FC)
This certainly maybe a selection to turn some heads but Shaul has been one of the most consistent and premier fullbacks in the Super League for the last couple of years. Since his debut in 2013, the 25-year-old has shown a great finishing ability, scoring 70 tries in 110 appearances for the club so far. Although he may not be a huge passer of the ball, Hull FC have been able to adapt to showcase Shaul’s top trait of ball-carrying, which over the last couple of seasons has been beyond exceptional. Although, behind the likes of Gareth Widdop, Johnny Lomax and Stefan Ratchford in the England pecking order it would not be hard to imagine that if Shaul can keep up his recent form, that first England cap may come much sooner.
Liam Marshall (Wigan Warriors)
If the Super League handed out awards for the breakout star of the year it would be hard to imagine it going to anyone else other than this player. The Wigan winger took the opportunity presented to him after injuries to Dom Manfredi and Joe Burgess, with a debut season certainly one to remember. In only his second game for Wigan, the 21-year-old showed just what he had to bring to the table by scoring four tries in a 38-16 win against Warrington.
It would not stop there for the Wigan Academy graduate though, as he would continue to showcase his great finishing ability by notching 23 tries in 24 games in 2017 and would go on to reach his first major final in the Challenge Cup final loss to Hull. To put the youngster’s breakthrough season into perspective, he has a better tries per game ratio than both Josh Charnley and current teammate Joe Burgess had in their respective breakout seasons. If Marshall continues down this similar path, the winger may find himself on Wayne Bennet’s’ radar sooner rather than later if he already is not.
Greg Minikin (Castleford Tigers)
The 2017 season would be a breakout year for the Castleford Tigers youngster, displaying a great eye for the tryline with an impressive 22 tries in 29 appearances for the 2017 League Leaders Shield winners. The combinations between himself, Greg Eden, Luke Gale and Zak Hardaker showed exactly why they were a team to be feared throughout the entire season.
Minkin started his career at York City Knights, showcasing just why he was one to watch for, scoring 20 tries in 39 appearances for the Yorkshire side. After signing with the Tigers in 2016, Minikin would find game time hard to come by, but showed exactly what the coaches saw in him throughout last season.
Although, it may be too early to tell if the 22-year-old will keep up his try-scoring form, the youngster has certainly shown some positive performances to suggest he is without a doubt one for the future. Only time will tell if we see this exciting talent performing on the international stage at some point in time.
Joe Greenwood (Gold Coast Titans)
A talented back-rower with bags of potential, Greenwood has displayed his ability to consistently break through tackles on his way to the try line. Between 2012 and 2017, the former Saddleworth Rangers junior would go on to score 26 tries in 77 appearances for St Helens before sealing a move to NRL outfit Gold Coast Titans, in bid to make Wayne Bennent’s World Cup squad. Now, with England having an abundance of player’s in the 24-year-old’s position in the likes of John Bateman, Ben Currie and Liam Farrell, Greenwood missed out on that World Cup spot. However, if Greenwood can continue to develop as player in the NRL and continue to show what he did in the Super League in 2018, it could most certainly boost his chances of that first international cap.
Tom Johnstone (Wakefield Trinity)
Johnstone is probably one of English Rugby League’s brightest young talents. The 2016 Young Player of the Year’s progress last season was held up due to an injury, but the young winger has without a doubt shown in past performances that he is one to watch out for. Since 2015, Johnstone has gone onto score 40 tries in 59 games for Trinity and with a lethal combination of pace, agility and power, if the 22-year-old can avoid any injuries this coming season, then anything could be possible for this great talent.
Ben Jones-Bishop (Wakefield Trinity)
A fairly consistent try scorer throughout his Super League career. The pacey winger, would begin his career at Leeds Rhinos in 2008, scoring 55 tries in 83 appearances, before moving on to the Salford Red Devils in 2015. Although he would not go on to repeat the same feats he did at Rhinos, the Leeds-born man would still show his great eye for the try-line, scoring 16 tries in 25 appearances for the club. After only one season with the Lancashire outfit, Jones-Bishop would go to join Wakefield in 2016 and has been a shining light for the club ever since. The 2017 season certainly saw a rejuvenated Jones-Bishop as the Wakefield star brought back the form we once saw at Leeds, going on to notch 20 tries throughout the Super League, behind only Liam Marshall and Greg Eden for most tries scored that season. At the same time, he also lead Trinity to a fifth placed finish.
Although he would make three appearances for the England Knights, the former Rhinos ace has still yet to make his England debut. Now at the age of 29, Jones Bishop looks set to be entering his prime and looking just as sharp as he did at the beginning of his career. Who knows, could he eventually acquire that elusive first England cap?
Tommy Makinson (St Helens)
The St Helens star, who can play either on the wing or at full-back, is probably one of the most naturally gifted finishers on the list. He would come into a Saints squad in 2011 without an injured Ade Gardner, playing 22 games and scoring 11 tries in the 2011 season.
Despite a string of great seasonal performances, Makinson would still not receive that England call up. Since his return from a heavy layoff due to a knee injury, he returned for the 2017 season looking to have picked up where he left off. Although, he would not repeat the same try-scoring feats before being side-lined, the 26-year-old would still show no lingering effects of his injury as he would continuously, soak up the metres racking up 3,217 metres behind only Alex Walmsley for the Saints that season.
Never one afraid to get stuck into a challenge, Makinson throughout his early career has consistently shown his lightning quick pace and great ability to break the defensive line. Since his debut in 2011, he has gone to score 97 tries in a 160 appearances for the Saints. That first international cap has so far eluded the Wigan-born man but at the age of 26, still has the majority of his career ahead of him and if he can stay fit and healthy, it would not be hard to imagine him being in Bennett’s crosshairs this coming season.
Tom Lineham (Warrington Wolves)
After spells with York, Hull and Warrington, the Leeds-born winger has shown a great eye for the try-line, consistently scoring for each of the three clubs. Lineham would break into the Super League scene for Hull FC in 2012, alongside Tom Briscoe and in the space of four seasons would go on to score 54 tries in 68 appearances for the Black and Whites. Following an incredible year in 2015, which saw him score 25 tries in 22 appearances for the club, he would eventually go to sign for Warrington Wolves for the 2016 season.
Although, he has endured a hot and cold start to life at Warrington, especially after being axed from the squad to play for third-tier squad Rochdale Hornets back in 2016. Even despite such a stuttered start, the powerful winger has still go on to show his worth at the Wire, crossing over the try line on 34 occasions in 43 appearances for the club.
Even with an England team, with the likes of Jermaine McGilvarry and Ryan Hall, a record of 103 tries in 128 appearances for both York, Hull and Warrington definitely speaks for itself. There are still elements of his game, that he still needs to improve, but Lineham certainly has the potential and all the attributes to not only be a top offensive force in the league but also for England one day as well.
Stevie Ward (Leeds Rhinos)
If it was not for an ill-timed shoulder injury, Ward may have already made his debut in the 2017 World Cup but as it stands, the Leeds Rhinos forward still remains without that first cap.
Although he may not be the one constantly scoring the tries, he is a player certainly willing to put his body on the line, Ward has been a shining example of the Rhinos’ youth system. Despite missing an entire year through injury, the loose forward returned to the squad at the start of 2017 season arguably even better than before. Even, when Ward would require surgery on a dislocated shoulder a week before Leeds’ Grand Final win over Castleford, it would not deter him though as he would remarkably go on to play the full 80 minutes in a truly inspirational and gutsy performance.
He now stands ahead of the pack in a new era for the Rhinos going into 2018 and even further beyond that. Now, with the departure of two of the Rhinos’ best servants in the duo of Danny McGuire and Rob Burrow, the West Yorkshire club may look for a new leader to emerge, with the 24-year-old being identified by McGuire as the one to fill that open role.
Dom Manfredi (Wigan Warriors)
Another selection held up by injury problems. The Wigan winger has been out with a serious knee injury since last year but in the past has certainly shown why he is held in such high regard. Before the injury would set in, Manfredi certainly produced performances most worthy of an England call up, showing a great burst of speed and an electric like running ability. Since making his debut for Wigan in 2013, he has crossed the try-line 48 times in 57 appearances.
The fact that Wigan head coach Shaun Wane, has said the 24-year-old is ‘way off’ in terms of recovery, it may be a while yet before we see him in an England shirt. However, at the age of 24 and still with a great portion of his career ahead of him, if Manfredi can get back to full fitness and return to that great try-scoring form we once saw then that first England call up could certainly come in the future.
Marc Sneyd (Hull FC)
In an England team that certainly is not short of kicking options with Gareth Widdop, Luke Gale and even Mark Percival, Sneyd has found it a difficult one to break into that England set up. However, the Hull scrum-half has still certainly been one of Super League’s most consistent kickers through the last couple of seasons going on to win the Super League’s top gun award for the last two years, due to his great accuracy with the boot.
Despite playing for both Salford and Castleford, it would be his time with current club Hull FC where he has endured the most success. In 2016 and 2017, the 26-year-old would lead the Black and Whites to two successive Challenge Cup victories, winning the Lance Todd trophy for his performances in both finals. Sneyd would even go on to create history in the process, becoming the first man to win the award outright in consecutive years. He very nearly gained international honours with Ireland at the 2013 World Cup but failed to complete paperwork in time.
Now, with a three match international series against New Zealand looming ahead towards the end of this year, Sneyd has the time to once again show he is worthy of that first England cap.
Oliver Gildart (Wigan Warriors)
After pulling out of Italy’s World Cup squad the Wigan centre, announced his plans to push for an England selection for the upcoming season. If last season’s performances are anything to go by, those plans may not to be farfetched as the 2017 Young Player of the year enjoyed his best season to date.
Still at the age of 21, Gildart has announced himself onto the Super League scene with a bang. Although injuries here and there have haltered his progress slightly, the centre boasts a great try-scoring record in his three seasons at Wigan, scoring 32 tries in 57 appearances. Even at such a tender age, the youngster has shown he can be one for the big occasion, winning the Super League at the age of 20 in 2016 whilst also scoring in Wigan’s World Club Challenge victory over the Cronulla Sharks.
A great talent with bags full of potential and his ability to step up when it matters could most certainly see him in England’s future plans this coming year.
Who do you think is the most deserving of an England cap in this list? Let us know in the comments below.