Vodafone Warriors fullback Sam Tomkins is one of six NRL-contracted players named in England’s squad for the Four Nations in New Zealand and Australia starting later this month.
The others in the 24-man party are South Sydney’s NRL premiership-winning front rowers George and Tom Burgess, Canterbury-Bankstown’s James Graham and St George Illawarra’s Mike Cooper and Gareth Widdop. Sam Burgess' rugby league career ended - for now at least - with yesterday's NRL grand final.
Also returning to the England team is Tomkins’ brother Joel, back in rugby league with Wigan after a stint in rugby union.
Coach Steve McNamara has named Sam Tomkins’ ex-Wigan Warriors team-mate Sean O’Loughlin as England’s new captain. He replaces Leeds Rhinos veteran Kevin Sinfield who announced his retirement from international football earlier this year.
The squad includes 13 survivors from last year’s Rugby League World Cup.
McNamara has drafted in nine uncapped players - Daryl Clark from Castleford Tigers, Elliott Whitehead (Catalans Dragons), Joe Westerman from Hull FC, Josh Hodgson, who will be joining NRL side Canberra Raiders from Hull KR later in the year, Cooper, Warrington’s Stefan Ratchford and the Wigan trio of Joe Burgess, Dan Sarginson and Matty Smith.
Three players – St Helens hooker James Roby, Wigan’s Michael McIlorum and Warrington’s Ben Westwood – weren’t considered due to scheduled surgery. Brisbane’s Jack Reed and Parramatta’s Lee Mossop are also unavailable following recent surgery.
"We spent a long time selecting this squad and there were some close calls with a lot of competition for places,” said McNamara.
“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.
“Sean O’Loughlin is a great leader and has been left a positive legacy from Kevin (Sinfield). 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 detail and work ethic will inspire the players both on and off the field.”
The European-based players will leave England on October 14 en route to their pre-tournament camp on the Gold Coast, Queensland.
England starts its Four Nations campaign on Saturday, October 25 when it takes on Toa Samoa at the Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane.
Their other group matches are:
Sunday, November 2
Australia v England
AMI Park, Melbourne
Saturday, November 8
New Zealand v England
Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Saturday, November 15
Four Nations grand final
Westpac Stadium, Wellington
FOUR NATIONS - ENGLAND SQUAD
George Burgess, South Sydney Rabbitohs
Joe Burgess, Wigan Warriors
Tom Burgess, South Sydney Rabbitohs
Josh Charnley, Wigan Warriors
Daryl Clark, Castleford Tigers
Mike Cooper, St George Illawarra Dragons
Liam Farrell, Wigan Warriors
Brett Ferres, Huddersfield Giants
James Graham, Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs
Ryan Hall, Leeds Rhinos
Zak Hardaker, Leeds Rhinos
Chris Hill, Warrington Wolves
Josh Hodgson, Hull KR
Sean O’Loughlin (captain), Wigan Warriors
Stefan Ratchford, Warrington Wolves
Dan Sarginson, Wigan Warriors
Michael Shenton, Castleford Tigers
Matty Smith, Wigan Warriors
Joel Tomkins, Wigan Warriors
Sam Tomkins, Vodafone Warriors
Kallum Watkins, Leeds Rhinos
Joe Westerman, Hull FC
Elliott Whitehead, Catalans Dragons
Gareth Widdop, St George Illawarra Dragons