Castleford Tigers forward McMeeken to win first England cap

Mike McMeeken.
Mike McMeeken.
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Castleford Tigers forward Mike McMeeken will win his first Test cap when England take on Samoa in Sydney on Saturday.

McMeeken has been named in the second-row for the mid-season international.

Kallum Watkins.

Kallum Watkins.

His Tigers team-mate Zak Hardaker will be at centre, with another Castleford man Luke Gale the starting scrum-half.

Leeds Rhinos winger Ryan Hall and centre Kallum Watkins are both set to start, as is Huddersfield Giants winger Jermaine McGilvary.

Hull prop Scott Taylor is one of three players who have travelled to Australia, but not been selected in the 17, along with Dewsbury-born Alex Walmsley and fellow St Helens man Mark Percival.

The other uncapped player in the side is Australian-born Chris McQueen, of Gold Coast Titans.

Zak Hardaker.

Zak Hardaker.

NRL-based Yorkshiremen in the 17 are South Sydney’s Sam and Tom Burgess and Canberra Raiders duo Josh Hodgson and Elliott Whitehead.

Coach Wayne Bennett said: “Samoa are a very good team – there’s a lot of top NRL players in their squad.

“It’s not going to be easy for us. We weren’t looking for an easy game, but we need to prove ourselves on Saturday.

“I’m really looking forward to it and I’m sure they are too because I know they’ve got a hard game in front of them.”

Of the trip Down Under, Bennett added: “It has been a really invaluable experience for all and essential to have all players here to prepare for what’s to come at the end of the year.

“It’s vital that the group spend time together and that I spend time with all the players during World Cup year.

“Some tough decisions were made when picking this team, but this eight-day camp has been fantastic – the commitment shown has been second to none.

“Being over here bridges the gap between not playing for long periods as a national team and gives us an opportunity to sort out little issues which will enable us to hit the ground running in October.”

On the return of captain Sean O’Loughlin, who missed the Four Nations through injury, Bennett added: “I like the way he plays. He’s calm, a good professional and my type of player.”

The England side is: Stefan Ratchford (Warrington Wolves), Jermaine McGillvary (Huddersfield Giants), Kallum Watkins (Leeds Rhinos), Zak Hardaker (Castleford Tigers), Ryan Hall (Leeds), Kevin Brown (Warrington), Luke Gale (Castleford), Sam Burgess (Canberra Raiders), Josh Hodgson (Canberra), James Graham (Canterbury), Mike McMeeken (Castleford), Elliott Whitehead (Canberra), Sean O’Loughlin (Wigan Warriors). Subs Chris Hill (Warrington), Chris Heighington (Cronulla Sharks), Chris McQueen (Gold Coast Titans), Tom Burgess (South Sydney).