Fantasy Championship squad would challenge the Knights

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Undoubtedly, given the quality of its two protagonists, this weekend’s Northern Rail Cup final will highlight some of the real class featuring in the Championship.

Halifax and Featherstone Rovers can boast some of the finest operators outside Super League and they are likely to stir up another memorable afternoon by the pier in Blackpool.

But there is so much more to the Championship than these two leading lights, who are battling it out for top spot with Sheffield Eagles, Batley Bulldogs and Leigh Centurions in one of the most competitive campaigns to date.

The principle reason for such high levels of consistent performance from so many is the depth of talent running throughout the division.

It has long been reported how so many former Super League players are now operating there but there is also a multitude of cracking young tyros making their way up from the other end to create a rich and vibrant competition.

All of which got me thinking about what the combined calibre of such a squad would produce and if it would be possible to see the team in action.

England have the Exiles but maybe England Knights should have a Championship XIII.

In all seriousness, the Knights’ 62-4 destruction of a hugely inexperienced Ireland in June was of no clear benefit to the England second string.

Channelling the best of the Championship into a representative side would definitely offer a sterner examination and, speaking to some involved in the division, there is certainly an appetite for it.

There are plenty of ex-Super League stars who might not even get close to the 17... such as Keighley’s ex-Wakefield prop Michael Korkidas, one-time Super League Young Player of the Year Kevin Penny, experienced former Castleford Tigers captain Andrew Henderson – now so invaluable at Sheffield – plus erstwhile England stand-offs Chris Thorman and Jamie Rooney.

But who would? Contenders at full-back include Halifax’s Paul White, Featherstone’s Ian Hardman and young James Craven, whom Dewsbury coach Warren Jowitt rates as the best in the division.

But Sheffield Eagles’ Quentin Laulu-Togagae stands out, the Samoan who is one try short of equalling the club’s record.

Given he has scored more Championship tries than any other winger, Batley’s Gareth Potts would get the nod with Featherstone’s Tom Saxton on the other.

There is a abundance of choice at centre but Featherstone’s Sam Smeaton impressed me in those Challenge Cup appearances and Sheffield’s Menzie Yere – who gave the England first team a torrid time while in Papua New Guinea colours – is a shoo-in, too.

Half-back is a tough proposition. Halifax’s Paul Handforth has consistently been one of the Championship’s best and, similarly, Leigh’s Jon Duffy shows no signs of losing any of his creativity and Keighley have Sam Obst but you can look no further than Featherstone pairing Andy Kain and Liam Finn.

Stand-off Kain is the competition’s leading try-scorer with 17 but he is much more than just a finisher while Finn’s control and kicking skill has frustrated so many.

Halifax prop Tony Tonks would have a point to prove after failing to take his chance at Huddersfield Giants while veteran Featherstone captain Stuart Dickens would be the cornerstone of any pack.

With Halifax hooker Sean Penkywicz directing alongside a back-row of Leigh’s Tommy Goulden, Sheffield’s Michael Knowles and scheming Rovers loose-forward Jonny Hepworth, it would be a formidable entity.

My Championship team: Laulu-Togagae (Sheffield); Saxton (Featherstone), Smeaton (Featherstone), Yere (Sheffield), Potts (Batley); Kain (Featherstone), Finn (Featherstone); Tonks (Halifax), Penkywicz (Halifax), Dickens (Featherstone), Goulden (Leigh), Knowles (Sheffield), Hepworth (Featherstone). Substitutes: Handforth (Halifax), Dale (Featherstone), Barlow (Halifax), Walmsley (Batley).