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2014 Four Nations Preview: England

England return to International rugby league for the first time since Shaun Johnson crushed their dreams and hopes in the final seconds of the 2013 World Cup semi-final at Wembley, as they take on Johnson’s New Zealand, Australia and Samoa in the Four Nations.

Steve McNamara’s men travel down under to take on the top teams in the world in pursuit of Four Nations glory and will have their best chance of turning over Australia in a long time as the hosts have had 22 players pull out of the tournament.

The 24-man-squad contains a strong NRL contingent which includes NRL Premiers Thomas and George Burgess, and runner up and Dally M Prop Forward James Graham. Along with Gareth Widdop, Sam Tomkins and Mike Cooper they will provide a strong foundation within the England side.

They are far from favourites with New Zealand and Australia tipped to compete in the final however the new skipper Sean O’Loughlin will be hoping to prove the critics wrong and lead England to a shock win down under.

The team controversially features no St Helens players, despite the side finishing the regular Super League season on top of the table and becoming Super League champions with victory in the Grand Final over Wigan Warriors.

13 of the 24 players in the squad featured in the World Cup squad last year while nine players are debutants who could play their first game for their country. They include hookers Daryl Clark, who picked up Super League’s Man of Steel award, and Josh Hodgson, who will be plying his trade in the NRL next season. Joe Burgess added an England call up to his incredible debut season and Elliot Whitehead, who’s great season for Catalans Dragons was rewarded with a Dream Team selection, is also amongst the debutants.

England fans will be looking for at least an improvement from their last tournament a year ago and a spot in the final is well within their reach.

England 24-man-squad:

George Burgess (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Joe Burgess (Wigan Warriors), Tom Burgess (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Josh Charnley (Wigan Warriors), Daryl Clark (Castleford), Mike Cooper (St George Illawarra Dragons), Liam Farrell (Wigan Warriors), Brett Ferres (Huddersfield Giants), James Graham (Canterbury Bulldogs), Ryan Hall (Leeds Rhinos), Zak Hardaker (Leeds Rhinos), Chris Hill (Warrington Wolves), Josh Hodgson (Hull KR), Sean O’Loughlin (Wigan Warriors), Stefan Ratchford (Warrington Wolves), Dan Sarginson (Wigan Warriors), Michael Shenton (Castleford Tigers), Matty Smith (Wigan Warriors), Joel Tomkins (Wigan Warriors), Sam Tomkins (NZ Warriors), Kallum Watkins (Leeds Rhinos), Joe Westerman (Hull FC), Elliott Whitehead (Catalans Dragons), Gareth Widdop (St George Illawarra Dragons).

My name is Sean Hayes. I am from Widnes, England. I am currently studying journalism at Salford University. Aspiring sports journalist and rugby league fanatic whether it is watching, playing or writing about the greatest game! Follow me on twitter @SHayesNBL

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