Tim Sheens confident much-changed All Stars side will compete against England

IT TOOK two days of wrangling and a great deal of crossing out, but Tim Sheens was yesterday finally able to name a squad for the Combined Nations yesterday.

Leader: Leeds Rhinos forward Matt Prior is joint captain of the All Stars team. Picture Bruce Rollinson

The former Hull KR coach, who guided Australia to a World Cup victory eight years ago, had hoped to confirm his side on Monday, but was forced to delay an announcement after a succession of candidates were ruled out.

Leeds Rhinos’ Matt Prior will co-captain the team, alongside Jackson Hastings of Wigan Warriors.

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Sheens’ 19-man group features five Huddersfield Giants players, including wing Jermaine McGillvary who was in England’s original squad.

Switching sides: Huddersfield's Jermaine McGillvary was left out for England so plays for the All Stars. © Photo: Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport.nz 2019. /SWpix.com

Hull full-back Jake Connor, another World Cup hopeful, will also get an opportunity to show England coach Shaun Wane what he is capable of. Featherstone Rovers forward Junior Moors, a former Castleford Tigers player, is the only inclusion from outside Super League.

Sheens admitted “30 or 40” players on his initial list were unavailable for the game, because of injuries, suspensions, a limit on how many could be chosen from one club and Covid.

“It has been very, very difficult for everyone,” said Sheens.

“I understand lots of clubs are down on numbers, it has been a bit of a nightmare, but my staff have done really well and the RFL have done a great job to help us.

Wheeling and dealing: Combined Nations All Stars coach Tim Sheens. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

“The clubs were up and down and I understand that, but at the end of the day they all stood by us, so I was pretty happy with it.”

The squad may not be the one Sheens wanted to select, but he is confident they can give England a run for their money.

“I wouldn’t call what we’ve got bare bones, not by a long shot,” he insisted.

“It is a very talented team; we have got a great spine, some of the best players in Super League and so much experience.

“We have got some punch in this side, some boys who are athletic and gifted.

“We are going to be a handful on the night, for sure.”

The spotlight will be on Connor, who many observers believe should have been included in the England squad.

Sheens noted: “There’s a fair amount of talent in the full-back position and I am sure Zak Hardaker would have been considered if he wasn’t suspended.

“Jake is one of many good full-backs in Super League and he just has to continue to play well, not just in this game, but for the rest of the season.

“It is a long way to the World Cup from here and anything can happen with form or injuries.

“He has got a chance to perform against [Sam] Tomkins, but we just want him to play his own game. He did that last week and was outstanding.

“We will be encouraging him just to settle down, play football for us and the rest will look after itself.”

Prior is one of five Leeds players selected for Friday’s game, leading to Rhinos’ Super League fixture at Salford Red Devils being moved back two days to Sunday.

Meanwhile England coach Shaun Wane has welcomed the selection of the likes of Connor and McGillvray.

Wane said: “Jermaine is a class player and it gives me another chance in a tough game to see how he goes.”

The Combined Nations All Stars squad is: Jake Connor (Hull FC), Kenny Edwards (Huddersfield Giants), Jackson Hastings (Wigan Warriors), Liam Kay (Wakefield Trinity), Kruise Leeming (Leeds Rhinos), Ricky Leutele (Huddersfield), Peter Mata’utia (Castleford Tigers), Suaia Matagi (Castleford), Jermaine McGillvary (Huddersfield), Junior Moors (Featherstone Rovers), Pauli Pauli (Salford Red Devils), Nathan Peats (Leigh Centurions), Matt Prior (Leeds), Chris Satae (Hull FC), Andre Savelio (Hull), Aidan Sezer (Huddersfield), Ken Sio (Salford), Kelepi Tanginoa (Wakefield), Luke Yates (Huddersfield)