McMeeken earns first England call-up along with two Castleford team-mates

Mike McMeeken in action for Castleford Tigers against Hull.
Mike McMeeken in action for Castleford Tigers against Hull.

Castleford Tigers’ in-form back rower Mike McMeeken is one of three new boys selected in the 20-man England squad heading down under for the Pacific Test match against Samoa.

The Tigers have three men in the squad with scrum-half Luke Gale and full-back Zak Hardaker also set to make the trip - but there is no place for captain Michael Shenton with Leeds Rhinos’ Kallum Watkins and St Helens’ Mark Percival selected ahead of him.

It is not the end of Shenton’s chances of making the World Cup squad, however, as an agreement was put in place to restrict the number of players in the Test squad to a maximum of three from any club.

McMeeken, Australia-based Chris McQueen and St Helens prop Alex Walmsley are the players to be called up to an England squad for the first time for the Samoa game, which takes place at Campbelltown Stadium, in Australia, on Saturday, May 6.

Hardaker and Chris Heighington, who was last selected in 2011 have been recalled while Wigan’s Sean O’Loughlin will also return to the squad as captain after missing the 2016 Four Nations tournament through injury.

The squad, which is made up of 12 players from the Betfred Super League and eight from the NRL, will take on a Samoa team currently ranked fifth in the world. The game, which kicks off at 10.30am (BST) is available to watch at live.rugby-league.com for an early bird offer price of just £3.49.

England head coach Wayne Bennett, said: “This is a strong squad that I believe has the talent to do well.

“The game against Samoa will be tough - they have some good players and plenty of spirit but this gives everyone in our squad the opportunity to show what they can do ahead of the World Cup.

“I’m very pleased that we have this chance to play mid-season. It gives the team a chance to work and spend time together and allows my coaching team and I the opportunity to take a closer look at how the players can rise to the challenge of playing against a tough and uncompromising opponent.

“There are some quality players left behind in England who have either just missed out or been ruled out through injury and this game enables me to look at some of those who haven’t been in the squad before.”

Kevin Sinfield, rugby director at the Rugby Football League, said: “This squad has an exciting mix of power and pace and I am looking forward to watching them play in a few weeks’ time. We have a great group of players available for selection and I know that it was incredibly tough for Wayne to select only 20 for this squad.”

The England squad for the Pacific Test Match against Samoa (professional and community club shown):

Sam Burgess (South Sydney Rabbitohs, Dewsbury Moor)

Thomas Burgess (South Sydney Rabbitohs, Dewsbury Moor)

Luke Gale (Castleford Tigers, Middleton Marauders)

James Graham (Canterbury Bulldogs, Blackbrook)

Ryan Hall (Leeds Rhinos, Oulton Raiders)

Zak Hardaker (Castleford Tigers, Featherstone Lions)

Chris Heighington (Cronulla Sutherland Sharks, Umina Bunnies)

Chris Hill (Warrington Wolves, New Springs Lions)

Josh Hodgson (Canberra Raiders, East Hull)

Jermaine McGillvary (Huddersfield Giants, Deighton Juniors)

Mike McMeeken (Castleford Tigers, Staines Titans)

Chris McQueen (Gold Coast Titans. Wynnum Manly Seagulls)

Sean O’Loughlin (C) (Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Patricks)

Mark Percival (St Helens, Halton Farnworth Hornets)

Scott Taylor (Hull FC, Skirlaugh)

Alex Walmsley (St Helens, Dewsbury Celtic)

Kallum Watkins (Leeds Rhinos, Latchford Albion)

Elliott Whitehead (Canberra Raiders, West Bowling)

Gareth Widdop (St. George Illawarra Dragons, King Cross)

George Williams (Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Patricks)