England play waiting game as All Stars struggle to raise a squad

ENGLAND WERE last night still waiting to learn which players will line up against them in Friday’s World Cup warm-up game.

Wait and see: England coach Shaun Wane. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com
Wait and see: England coach Shaun Wane. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

ENGLAND WERE last night still waiting to learn which players will line up against them in Friday’s World Cup warm-up game.

The Combined Nations All Stars squad was due to be revealed yesterday, but after a day of arguments, the announcement was delayed until this morning.

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The game, Shaun Wane’s first in charge of England is set to take place at a time when fears are growing of a new wave of coronavirus disruption in Super League.

Recalled: Wakefield's in-form forwad Joe Westerman. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com

Leeds Rhinos, whose last two fixtures were postponed after eight players contracted the virus and others were forced to isolate as close contacts, resumed training yesterday after a 12-day break.

But Hull KR became the latest club to request a postponement following three positive tests over the weekend, adding to two last week.

Nine other players have been forced to isolate as close contacts.

The East Yorkshire club’s game at home to St Helens has been called off and training postponed until tomorrow, when a further round of PCR testing will be carried out.

Key man: Leeds Rhinos' Luke Gale. Picture Bruce Rollinson

Rovers are not represented in the England squad and their players who had been set for All Stars selection have been stood down.

Coaches, having seen their sides already weakened by injuries, Covid cases and England call-ups, are reluctant to release players to the All Stars squad for Friday, which would further limit their selection options for this week’s full round of Super League matches.

After talks yesterday between clubs and the governing body, an RFL spokesman said confirmation of the All Stars squad is “regrettably, but unavoidably, delayed until [this] morning”.

He added: “This is to allow team management additional time this evening to finalise arrangements.”

Friday’s game is one of only two warm-up fixtures before England begin their World Cup campaign against Samoa in Newcastle on October 23 and is regarded as crucial to Wane’s preparations.

The England coach yesterday reduced his squad from the 24 players named last week to 19, including Leeds’ Ash Handley, Luke Gale and Mikolaj Oledzki, Wakefield Trinity duo Reece Lyne and Joe Westerman and Paul McShane of Castleford Tigers.

Leeds are due to return to action on Friday at Salford Red Devils, but coach Richard Agar has admitted he is unsure how, with injuries and Covid having already decimated his squad, he will be able to raise a team.

One possible option is for Rhinos’ game at Salford to be moved back two days to Sunday, allowing players to back-up from the mid-season Test.

Trinity are at home to Wigan Warriors on Thursday, when Castleford face visitors Catalans Dragons.

Neither Hull nor Huddersfield Giants, who meet on Friday, are represented in the England squad, but both are believed to be concerned about the possibility of being weakened by players being called up for the All Stars.

Handley, Oledzki and McShane are among six uncapped players in England’s squad.

The others are Catalans’ Tom Davies, Morgan Knowles of St Helens and Warrington Wolves’ Joe Philbin.

Players dropped from the 24-man squad named last week are free-agent George Williams, Warrington’s Toby King, Jermaine McGillvary and Jake Wardle of Huddersfield Giants and Salford’s Dan Sarginson.

Sarginson has been suspended for three matches after the RFL’s match review panel charged him with a grade C high tackle in last Friday’s win at Huddersfield.

Teammate James Greenwood was mistakenly sent-off for the incident, but the review panel rescinded his red card.

Salford’s Greg Burke received a one-game penalty notice for a grade B high tackle in the same game, also ruling him out of the meeting with Rhinos.

Wigan’s former Leeds forward Brad Singleton will miss two games, including this week’s trip to Wakefield, after being charged with a grade C butt against Hull KR last weekend.

Two Leeds Rhinos players, two from York City Knights and five from Castleford Tigers have been named in a 19-strong squad for England Women’s Test against Wales at Warrington on Friday, played as a curtain-raiser to the men’s match.

Leeds wing Fran Goldthorp, who scored two tries in the 2019 Grand Final win over Castleford, is set for her first cap.

Rhinos full-back Caitlin Beevers is also included and Castleford’s Emma Lumley and Hollie Dodd – who made history featuring in the 2019 Challenge Cup final at just 16 - are in contention to make their international debut.

Shona Hoyle, Georgia Roche and Tara Stanley are Tigers’ other representatives.

The squad also features Grace Field and Kelsey Gentles, who both joined York from Castleford earlier this year.

England men’s 19-man squad is: John Bateman (Wigan Warriors), Daryl Clark, Mike Cooper, Ben Currie (all Warrington Wolves), Tom Davies (Catalans Dragons), Liam Farrell (Wigan), Luke Gale, Ash Handley (both Leeds Rhinos) Morgan Knowles (St Helens), Reece Lyne (Wakefield Trinity), Jonny Lomax (St Helens), Paul McShane (Castleford Tigers), Tommy Makinson (St Helens), Mikolaj Oledzki (Leeds), Joe Philbin, Stefan Ratchford (both Warrington), Sam Tomkins (Catalans), Alex Walmsley (St Helens), Joe Westerman (Wakefield).

The England women’s squad is: Emily Rudge (St Helens, captain), Caitlin Beevers (Leeds Rhinos), Chantelle Crowl, Jodie Cunningham (both St Helens), Hollie Dodd (Castleford Tigers), Grace Field, Kelsey Gentles (both York City Knights), Fran Goldthorp (Leeds), Amy Hardcastle (St Helens), Shona Hoyle (Castleford), Tara Jones (St Helens), Emma Lumley (Castleford), Vicky Molyneux (Wigan), Carrie Roberts (St Helens), Georgia Roche (Castleford), Beth Stott (St Helens), Tara Stanley (Castleford), Paige Travis (St Helens), Georgia Wilson (Wigan Warriors).