Leeds Rhinos, Castleford Tigers and Wakefield Trinity stars all named in England elite squad
Long-term casualties Stevie Ward, Luke Gale and Tom Johnstone have all been named in the latest England elite performance squad.
Ward, who will be sidelined until June by a knee injury, is one of two Leeds Rhinos players included, alongside captain Kallum Watkins.
Gale is not expected to play this season after suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon in January.
He has been named in coach Wayne Bennett’s elite group alongside Castleford Tigers clubmates Adam Milner, Jake Trueman and Liam Watts.
Milner made his England debut last year, but Trueman had to withdraw from the 2019 England Knights squad due to injury.
Watts’ has earned a call-up after making a strong start to the season.
Johnstone, who made his England debut last autumn, suffered a season-ending anterior cruciate ligament injury earlier this month, but retains his place in the elite squad, as does his Wakefield Trinity colleague Reece Lyne.
The 2019 performance squad will meet for the first time in late April when they will be joined by the Knights Performance Squad which is to be named on Tuesday.
There is no mid-season international this year but Bennett, the England and Great Britain coach, will attend the second 2019 EPS meeting in June.
There are further meetings in August and September ahead of selection for the Great Britain Lions tour of New Zealand and Papua New Guinea this autumn and England’s participation in the World Cup Nines in Sydney.
Bennett said: “Even in a year when we don’t have a mid-season game it’s important for us to name this squad – and also the Knights squad – early in the season.
“We had a good year in 2018 with four wins out of five, three of them against the Kiwis and I know the guys will be looking forward to getting together again in April – and I’m looking forward to getting across there in June.”
The England elite performance squad is: Luke Gale, Adam Milner, Jake Trueman, Liam Watts (all Castleford Tigers), Sam Tomkins (Catalans Dragons), Jermaine McGillvary (Huddersfield Giants), Jake Connor, Jamie Shaul, Scott Taylor (Hull FC), Robbie Mulhern (Hull KR), Stevie Ward, Kallum Watkins (Leeds Rhinos), Jonny Lomax, Tommy Makinson, Mark Percival, James Roby, Luke Thompson, Alex Walmsley (St Helens), Tom Johnstone, Reece Lyne (Wakefield Trinity), Josh Charnley, Daryl Clark, Ben Currie, Chris Hill, Jack Hughes, Stefan Ratchford (Warrington Wolves), Oliver Gildart, Joe Greenwood, Sean O’Loughlin, George Williams (Wigan Warriors).