Dave Craven: This could be year of the Tigers when it comes to England

IT might seem a little early to start wondering out loud who should be selected for England this year.

Luke Gale.
Luke Gale.

But I love a list. Especially the ‘To Do...’ one which never seems to shorten stuck on the fridge.

Moreover, given the much-needed introduction of a mid-season Test against Samoa that takes place as soon as May, we have every right to start penning down some ideas.

Granted, the Super League season is only seven rounds old this weekend so there is not much to take stock from.

Furthermore, it’d be surprising if England coach Wayne Bennett veered too far – if at all – from his 31-man elite performance training squad and NRL contingent. But there are certainly some players, who might not have been likely candidates, now very much in the frame for that game in Sydney.

Undoubtedly, at least three of the Castleford Tigers contingent will surely be on plane but maybe as many as five.

Everyone expects Luke Gale, their gifted scrum-half, to be paired with the similarly in-form Wigan stand-off George Williams, against Samoa.

Castleford captain Michael Shenton, too, should be given the chance to make that left centre berth his own following an impressive return to action after missing all of last season due to a knee reconstruction.

Zak Hardaker has been down the pecking order for the England No 1 shirt after being overlooked by Bennett for the Four Nations but now, back in that 31-man group and having made such a devastating start to his season-long loan at Wheldon Road, he is clearly imbued with confidence and ready to pick up where he left off in 2015.

The creative aspect of his game is already improving under Daryl Powell and his coaching staff and, on form alone, Hardaker should get a shot ahead of incumbent Jonny Lomax.

Untried Mike McMeeken is the fourth and final Castleford player in the EPS and, personally, I’d love to see him unleashed against the always physical Samoans.

With his hulking frame, and offloading skill, it would be fascinating to see how the talented 22-year-old would adapt to Test level and he would certainly pose a different style of threat to the current second-rows in the England set-up.

Some Tigers fans would argue one of Greg Minikin or Greg Eden – their prolific wingers – should be given a wildcard, too, and, if Bennett wanted to go away from his tried and trusted Ryan Hall and Jermaine McGillvary, they could have a point.

Hall and McGillvary are the only two specialist wingers in the squad at present. Raw Minikin has the sort of bulk that could come in useful but it’d be a remarkable rise from League 1 York City Knights to England if he did get such a call inside only two years.

A more likely debut perhaps, even given the vast number of props at Bennett’s disposal, would be Alex Walmsley.

The St Helens star was on the verge of a call-up under Steve McNamara in 2015 when shortlisted for Man of Steel alongside eventual winner Hardaker. Injury, then, denied him and, by his high standards, last season was not his best.

However, the marauding front-row has been superb this term, delivering his bullocking best once more and making more metres than anyone else. As he approaches his 27th birthday and now in his fourth campaign of top-flight football, you sense he is ready to make that next step up.