England have this week revealed their 2019 Performance Squad ahead of their first meeting of the year late in April and Warrington Wolves’ winger Josh Charnley has been included for the first time since he returned to rugby league after a stint in union. The former Wigan star has made eight England appearances earlier in his career and is joined in the squad by five other Wire men with Ben Currie returning to the international fold after recovering from serious injury and Jack Hughes moving up from the England Knights squad after captaining them on their tour of Papua New Guinea late last year.
Robbie Mulhern and Jake Trueman have also made the move up from the Knights with Wayne Bennett looking to introduce some new blood into a 30-strong squad made up solely of Super League players. Trueman is joined in the squad by the injured Luke Gale, Adam Milner and the uncapped Liam Watts – the latter being a player who has started the 2019 season in excellent form. Kallum Watkins and Alex Walmsley, like Warrington’s Currie, are included in the squad after recovering from long-term injuries and will be keen to stake their claims for involvement in the end-of-season Great Britain tour of the Southern Hemisphere.
While there are no England internationals this year, the squad will meet in April, June and then twice in the Autumn prior to head coach Wayne Bennett selecting the Great Britain Rugby League Lions squad. England will also compete for the first time in the World Cup Nines in Sydney this winter.
After the squad was revealed, Bennett remarked “we had a good year in 2018 with four wins out of five, three of them against the Kiwis, and I know the guys will be looking forward to getting together again in April – and I’m looking forward to getting across there in June.” Commenting on the elevation of a few squad members from the Knights ranks, he added “Jack Hughes is one of a few players who have come up into the EPS from the Knights squads that were picked last year, which is good to see.
“When you think of the number of guys who are playing in the NRL so weren’t considered for this squad, it’s a good pool of players we’re building up – both for the Great Britain tour this autumn, and looking further ahead towards the 2021 World Cup.”
England Rugby League Elite Performance Squad in full:
Luke Gale, Adam Milner, Jake Trueman, Liam Watts (all Castleford Tigers), Sam Tomkins (Catalans Dragons), Jermaine McGillvary (Huddersfield Giants) Jake Connor, Jamie Shaul, Scott Taylor (all Hull FC), Robbie Mulhern (Hull KR), Stevie Ward, Kallum Watkins (both Leeds Rhinos), Jonny Lomax, Tommy Makinson, Mark Percival, James Roby, Luke Thompson, Alex Walmsley (all St Helens), Tom Johnstone, Reece Lyne (both Wakefield Trinity), Josh Charnley, Daryl Clark, Ben Currie, Chris Hill, Jack Hughes, Stefan Ratchford (all Warrington Wolves), Oliver Gildart, Joe Greenwood, Sean O’Loughlin, George Williams (all Wigan Warriors)