St Helens v Huddersfield Giants – Lee Gaskell backs Jonny Lomax as England No 6

HUDDERSFIELD Giants’ Lee Gaskell has known Jonny Lomax for more than a decade and insists it is now time his former St Helens team-mate was handed England’s No6 jersey.

They were half-back partners for Saints in the 2011 Grand Final aged just 20 and 21 respectively.

Although Gaskell moved onto Salford and Bradford before settling at Huddersfield, Lomax remained at Saints and developed into one of Super League’s finest.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

He has earned England honours largely at full-back under Wayne Bennett but new coach Shaun Wane may well select him where he shines so brightly for the reigning champions.

Gaskell heads back to his hometown with Giants tonight and will be in direct opposition against his old pal.

“If I was England coach, Jonny would definitely be my six,” he said, speaking before Wane’s squad announcement that duly saw high-profile half-backs Gareth Widdop, Jackson Hastings and Blake Austin all dropped.

“I think Jonny prefers playing there as well. I don’t think anyone deserves that six shirt more than him. It’s great to see him going so well but he’s been doing it for so long now you expect it.

“Yet he’s always been under-rated. Every time he’s played year in, year out he’s always so consistent and probably doesn’t get the plaudits he deserves. People are raving about him now but I think he has always been of the highest standard and by far the best player in Super League for the last couple of years.

IN THE THICK OF IT: Huddersfield's Lee Gaskell is tackled by Salford's Kris Welham, Tui Lolohea and James Greenwood. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com

“It’s the way he goes about his business, too; it’s not surprising to me he’s the best in the league.”

Trying to keep Lomax quiet will be one of Huddersfield’s primary aims tonight.

The Giants, though, must also look at themselves; their winning start to the season came unstuck against Wigan Warriors on Sunday, conceding four tries when Australian half-back Aidan Sezer was sin-binned to lose 42-10.

Gaskell said: “We had good intent about us for 35 minutes and led but then turned into the Giants of last season.

HE'S THE MAN: St Helens's Jonny Lomax is tackled by Salford's Joey Lussick and is backed to be the answer for England at No 6 by former team-mate Lee Gaskell. Picture by Chris Mangnall/SWpix.com

“We gave away too much easy ball, took too many soft options, which wasn’t good enough and neither was conceding four tries after that yellow. We can’t sulk, though, and have to respond.”

Huddersfield coach Simon Woolford hopes the defeat will be just a blip and Gaskell sees no reason why that should not be the case.

“It’s a good learning curve,” he added.
“We’ve had three good wins and then faced Wigan who are always a top-four side.

“We want to be up there. That’s where we want to be. Hopefully, come the end, looking back at that game it will have done us some good.

I BELIEVE: Huddersfield Giants' Lee Gaskell is tackled by Wigan's Liam Farrell last Sunday. Picture: Tony Johnson.

“You know what Saints bring, The last couple of years they have been the best team by far.

“It doesn’t get any harder than going there on Friday night but it’s a good test and we should still be going with full of confidence.”

Meanwhile, highly-rated young Huddersfield hooker Reiss Butterworth has joined York City Knights on a one-month loan.

He has featured three times for the Giants Reserves side this season having signed from Bradford on a three-year deal in 2018.

Butterworth, 21, is still yet to make his Super League debut but made 14 appearances for Batley in the Championship last season.

Huddersfield managing director Richard Thewlis said “Reiss has been looking for first-team opportunities and the situation has arisen for York to provide him with some quality Championship game-time.

“Reiss is a big talent, and the opportunity to test himself in a competitive Championship with York will be good for his development and be a step up from reserve grade in a side that all expect at the end of the year to be challenging for promotion.

“The initial arrangement is only for a month and we’ll all review where we are at after that.”