Vodafone Warriors 2017 NRL rookie James Bell is elated after being named today in Scotland’s 24-man squad for the Rugby League World Cup starting later this month.
A New Zealand Maori representative, the 23-year-old back rower qualifies through his grandfather – also James Bell – who hails from Aberdeen.
His father is also named James.
“I come from a long line of James Bells. I’m James Bell the fifth,” said the new Scotland Bravehearts international, who became Vodafone Warrior #220 when he played against Cronulla in round 17 this year.
“Dad is really proud of his Scottish heritage and so am I.”
The Papakura Sea Eagles junior is set to become just the second Vodafone Warrior to play for Scotland, the first being 65-game 2008-2010 hooker Ian Henderson.
Just as exciting for two-game Vodafone Warrior Bell is the fact he has the chance to play against so many team-mates with the Bravehearts in the same pool as the Kiwis, Mate Ma’a Tonga and Toa Samoa.
The Vodafone Warriors have six players in the New Zealand squad including new signings Adam Blair, Gerard Beale and Peta Hiku while four players are in the Samoan line-up and three have been named for Tonga plus Bell's recent recent team-mates Manu Vatuvei and Tuimoala Lolohea.
Bell is one of 13 players from the 2014 NYC premiership-winning Vodafone Junior Warriors squad who have graduated to the NRL.
He has been a stalwart in the club’s Intrust Super Premiership side, taking his career tally to 65 appearances this year, the most by any player since the club took over running the team in 2014.
Bell is one of seven uncapped players in the Scotland squad including brothers Kane and Andrew Bentley of Toulouse Olympique.
They are joined by a clutch of Super League stars including Warrington outside back Matthew Russell, Wigan wing Lewis Tierney, St Helens prop Luke Douglas and Scotland’s most-capped player Danny Brough (Huddersfield). They are among 14 players who retain their places from last year’s successful Four Nations squad.
With injuries ruling out NRL grand finalists Lachlan Coote (ankle) and Kane Linnett (elbow) plus Liam Hood (knee), Peter Wallace (ribs and hand) and Euan Aitken (shoulder) and Billy McConnochie (knee), coach Steve McCormack has turned to a clutch of up and coming talents from the NRL and stalwarts of the Scotland scene.
As well as Bell and the Bentley brothers, the other newcomers are Jarred Anderson (Sydney Roosters) , Penrith centre or wing Lachlan Stein, Bradford’s Brandan Wilkinson and Barrow’s Shane Toal. Wilkinson and Toal have both come through the Scotland Under-19 pathway.
“It’s just reward for those players,” said McCormack.
“Brandan has played nearly every week in the Championship for Bradford in difficult circumstances this year and has developed massively. And Shane has been a stand-out in League One and topped it all by scoring the try that got Barrow promoted last week. They are proof that there is talent coming through our pathway.
“It is a young squad but that’s exciting, too. When we took our youngest ever team to play in France two years ago, I said some of them would be on the plane to Australia and a lot of them will be on Sunday.”
Although only six players are into double figures in appearances, McCormack has retained the core of the Scotland side that reached the 2013 World Cup quarter-finals, won the 2014 European Championships and held New Zealand to a draw in the Four Nations last autumn.
The Bravehearts fly to Brisbane on Sunday and play New South Wales Country on October 20 before heading to Cairns for their opening Pool B game against star-studded Tonga on October 29.
SCOTLAND | THE BRAVEHEARTS
Alex Walker (London Broncos)
Andrew Bentley (Toulouse Olympique)
Ben Hellewell (London Broncos)
Ben Kavanagh (Hull Kingston Rovers)
Brandan Wilkinson (Bradford Bulls)
Callum Phillips (Workington Town)
Dale Ferguson (Huddersfield Giants)
Danny Addy (Hull Kingston Rovers)
Danny Brough (Huddersfield Giants)
David Scott (Batley Bulldogs)
Frankie Mariano (Featherstone Rovers)
James Bell (Vodafone Warriors)
Jarred Anderson (Sydney Roosters)
Johnny Walker (Darlington Point Roosters)
Kane Bentley (Toulouse Olympique)
Kieran Moran (Hull Kingston Rovers)
Lachlan Stein (Penrith Panthers)
Lewis Tierney (Wigan Warriors)
Luke Douglas (St Helens)
Matthew Russell (Warrington Wolves)
Oscar Thomas (Bradford Bulls)
Ryan Brierley (Toronto Wolfpack)
Sam Brooks (Featherstone Rovers)
Shane Toal (Barrow Raiders)
SCOTLAND BRAVEHEARTS AT RLWC2017 | POOL GAMES
v Mate Ma’a Tonga
4.15pm, Sunday, October 29
Barlow Park, Cairns
v New Zealand Kiwis
5.00pm, Saturday, November 4
AMI Stadium, Christchurch
v Toa Samoa
5.00pm, Saturday, November 11
Barlow Park, Scotland