England have named the uncapped Ben Currie and Alex Walmsley in their 24-man World Cup squad.
Currie, who played for Ireland in the last World Cup in 2013, is chosen despite making just four appearances for his club this year due to injury, while Walmsley went to Sydney for England’s mid-season Test against Samoa but did not play.
As expected, there is no place for Super League’s leading full-back Zak Hardaker following his failed drugs test, which is expected to pave the way for Jonny Lomax to reclaim the England No 1 jersey.
Lomax was arguably England’s best performer in the 2016 Four Nations Series, but missed the game against Samoa in Sydney through injury, when coach Wayne Bennett opted to play Warrington utility player Stefan Ratchford at full-back, with Hardaker chosen at centre.
Wigan’s Sam Tomkins made a strong push for a recall after being dropped from the elite training squad during his injury-hit start to the year, but his club’s failure to make the play-off semi-finals denied him one last chance to impress.
Lomax’s Saints team-mate, hooker James Roby, has been recalled after a two-year absence, getting the nod ahead of Hull FC’s Daryl Clark and Castleford’s Paul McShane after producing a strong finish to the season.
England’s 24-man World Cup squad: John Bateman (Wigan), Kevin Brown (Warrington), Sam Burgess (South Sydney), Thomas Burgess (South Sydney), Ben Currie (Warrington), Luke Gale (Castleford), James Graham (St George Illawarra), Ryan Hall (Leeds), Chris Heighington (Cronulla), Chris Hill (Warrington), Josh Hodgson (Canberra), Jonny Lomax (St Helens), Jermaine McGillvary (Huddersfield), Mike McMeeken (Castleford), Sean O’Loughlin (Wigan, capt), Mark Percival (St Helens), Stefan Ratchford (Warrington), James Roby (St Helens), Scott Taylor (Hull), Alex Walmsley (St Helens), Kallum Watkins (Leeds), Elliott Whitehead (Canberra), Gareth Widdop (St George Illawarra), George Williams (Wigan).