The Ladbrokes Four Nations is almost upon us, and Wayne Bennett’s announcement of England’s tournament squad has boosted the anticipation in offices, homes and pubs across the country.
It’s certainly been the big talking point at Ladbrokes News HQ during the last 24 hours. Here’s our verdict on the final cut.
It’s good to have Sam back
There may be three Burgess brothers in the England squad for this autumn’s showpiece, but all the talk is focused on the eldest one. Yes, three years after his last England appearance and two after his code switch to Rugby Union, Sam Burgess is back.
The Rabbitohs didn’t have the greatest of seasons in 2016, with 15 losses in 24 NRL games, but five tries and a handful of excellent displays from Burgess mean he remains an excellent addition to the England side.
Wayne’s faith in Wigan youngster
While much of Bennett’s squad are experienced campaigners, the coach has still found a place for hugely talented Wigan Warriors youngster George Williams.
The 21-year-old did make three England appearances in 2015, to kick-off his international career, but as an event, this is a step up from the Tests he played in against New Zealand.
Still, there’s little question of the stand-off struggling with the pressure. He produced a masterful display as the Warriors won the Super League Grand Final against Warrington last weekend.
Picking the gems from the strugglers
While Williams was part of a fantastic Wigan side who won six of their last seven games to lift Super League’s big prize, the England boss has smartly identified the best performers from the division’s struggling sides this season.
Pacy Huddersfield Giants winger Jermaine McGillvary is in the fray, with Brett Ferres, Kallum Watkins and Ryan Hall of Leeds Rhinos also making the cut.
Each continued to impress during their side’s successful battle to stave off relegation in The Qualifiers, so there’s every reason to believe they’ll produce the goods again on home soil.
Potential debuts on the horizon
There’s a reason the coach affectionately known as ‘Benny’ was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 2012. He’s made a career out of calling big decisions the right way.
Including four uncapped players in a tournament squad is certainly a confident move, but every member of that quartet has made a good case for their inclusion.
Hull FC prop Scott Taylor was one of the key figures as the Airlie Birds lifted the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup, while St Helens duo Jonny Lomax and Mark Percival helped make the Saints a tough side to break down last season.
However, it’s Castleford’s Luke Gale who really caught the eye in Super League XXI, chalking up a huge 390 points for the Tigers.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing