Leeds Rhinos: Hall, Hardaker and Watkins in England squad

Ryan Hall is named in the England squad.
Ryan Hall is named in the England squad.
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Wigan loose forward Sean O’Loughlin will lead an England team including three Leedsa Rhinos players in the 2014 Four Nations Series.

Rhinos stars Ryan Hall, Zak Hardaker and Kallum Watkins have all been selected.

O’Loughlin, the 31-year-old Warriors captain was the logical choice to succeed Kevin Sinfield, who announced his retirement from the international game five weeks ago, and he was duly appointed on Sunday when England head coach Steve McNamara named his 24-man squad.

O’Loughlin succeeded his brother-in-law Andy Farrell as Wigan captain in 2006 and will now follow in his footsteps by leading his country when England open their Four Nations campaign against Samoa in Brisbane on October 25.

“Sean O’Loughlin is a great leader and has been left a positive legacy from Kevin,” McNamara said.

“He is excited and honoured to be captaining the national set-up and will impose his experience and qualities on the rest of the group. In particular, his attention to detail and work ethic will inspire the players both on and off the field.”

O’Loughlin, who captained England A in 2002, is one of just 13 survivors from the 2013 World Cup as McNamara shuffles his squad to bring in the players in form.

“I’m very excited by this new challenge,” O’Loughlin said. “It is a huge honour to be appointed captain of the national team and I am very much looking forward to leading the side in Australia and New Zealand over the coming weeks.

“We’ve got a number of leaders in the squad and I will work with them to ensure we are doing all we can to be successful on the international stage.

“It’s about going out there and leading from example. It’s an exciting time for England Rugby League.”

O’Loughlin is one of seven players from Wigan, who will defend their Super League crown in next Saturday’s Grand Final against St Helens.

They include second rower Joel Tomkins, who is recalled to the side just four months after returning from a three-year spell in rugby union, in-form centre Dan Sarginson and 19-year-old winger Joe Burgess, who has enjoyed a sensational first full season in Super League.

Omitted from the side pipped by New Zealand in England’s last match, the World Cup semi-final at Wembley last November, are Leroy Cudjoe, Rob Burrow, Sam Burgess, who is switching codes with Bath, Carl Ablett and injured duo James Roby and Ben Westwood, as well as Sinfield.

With Michael McIlorum also due for close-season surgery, McNamara has called up hooker Josh Hodgson, who left Hull KR at the end of the season to join the growing band of England players operating in the NRL, having signed for Canberra Raiders.

Hodgson, one of nine uncapped players, will be vying with Castleford’s Daryl Clark for the hooking role while Wigan scrum-half Matty Smith, Catalan Dragons’ former Bradford second rower Elliott Whitehead, Hull loose forward Joe Westerman, Warrington utility man Stefan Ratchford and St George Illawarra’s ex-Warrington prop Mike Cooper are the other new faces.

Elsewhere, there is a recall after a four-year absence for Castleford centre Michael Shenton, who was named in the 2014 Super League Dream Team after enjoying a return to top form with his resurgent club this year.

McNamara, said: “We spent a long time selecting this squad and there were some close calls with a lot of competition for places. But ultimately we chose the players who will give us the best chance of winning a major tournament in Australasia for the first time since 1990, when Great Britain defeated New Zealand.

“We have a tremendous challenge in front of us but I know the players have the desire, appetite and quality to do English Rugby League proud in this tournament.”

The Super League-based players, along with Sam Tomkins, will fly out on Tuesday, October 14, for their pre-tournament camp on the Gold Coast, Queensland, to prepare for their opening game 11 days later.

England squad: G Burgess, T Burgess (both South Sydney), J Burgess (Wigan), J Charnley (Wigan), D Clark (Castleford), M Cooper (St George Illawarra), L Farrell (Wigan), B Ferres (Huddersfield), J Graham (Canterbury Bulldogs), R Hall (Leeds), Z Hardaker (Leeds), C Hill (Warrington), J Hodgson (Hull KR), S O’Loughlin (Wigan, captain), S Ratchford (Warrington), D Sarginson, (Wigan), M Shenton (Castleford), M Smith (Wigan), J Tomkins (Wigan), S Tomkins (New Zealand Warriors), K Watkins (Leeds), J Westerman (Hull), E Whitehead (Catalan Dragons), G Widdop (St George Illawarra).

Jack Walker

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