ENGLAND’S Brett Ferres has defended coach Steve McNamara’s decision to select Joel Tomkins for the national side just seven games after his return from rugby union.
Huddersfield Giants second-row Ferres can only make do with a place on the bench for tomorrow’s Four Nations opener against Samoa despite his superb form starting in England’s pack at last year’s World Cup.
Meanwhile, uncapped Elliott Whitehead, the Catalan Dragons second-row who, with 18, scored more tries than any other forward in Super League or the NRL this term, does not even make the 17 as McNamara plumps for Tomkins’s experience alongside Wigan Warriors team-mate Liam Farrell.
Ferres told The Yorkshire Post: “Elliot’s been great this season.
“He’s been consistent all year and deserves his place in the squad. But Joel has also come back from union and broke into a very good Wigan side who made the Grand Final.
“It’s always going to be a tough call when selecting an England side because most players are regular starters at club level.
“But Steve’s the coach and, though it can’t be easy, he picks the side he thinks can do the job.
“As for me, I am used to starting but Steve thinks I can add something different from the bench, so I’m happy to do what’s best for the team.”
Although England are favourites to open the tournament with a win, they will not underestimate a Samoa side that is captained by Ferres’s former Huddersfield colleague David Fa’alogo, the veteran prop who has excelled with Newcastle Knights this term.
“They have a very strong squad with a lot of NRL and Super League players,” he said.
“They are a big, physical side with threats all over the field.
“It’ll be good to go up against Dave; he’s been great since he’s gone back to the NRL.
“He really struggled with injuries at the Giants, but when he played he was very good for us. He led from the front and never took a backwards step.”
Ferres, 28, is also relishing the chance to line up as one of a quartet of Castlefordians in the England side tomorrow.
He is joined by young Castleford Tigers star and Man of Steel Daryl Clark, plus Hull FC’s Joe Westerman, who both debut and played with him during his time at Wheldon Road, as did Michael Shenton, the Tigers’ captain who features at centre for his country for the first time since 2010.
“It’s great to see four lads from Cas’ in the side,” he said.
“Joe and Daz have been great this year. I watched Daz come through the academy into the first team at Cas’.
“He’s always been such a quick, instinctive player but now he’s growing into a very smart player with a good skill set too.
“Joe’s very talented and has had a real pedigree from a young age, but he’s really found his place now (at Hull) and is fulfilling his early promise.
“Shenny’s always been a class act and he’s led Cas’ brilliantly this year so it’s brilliant to see him back, too.”