There can be but one question hanging on most people’s lips about the England squad announced by the great Wayne Bennett today, that question is, Has he even been watching the First Utility Super League this year?
As great as Bennett is, we all know he’s been there and done it all before, but some of the selections he has apparently made for the forthcoming 4 Nations certainly do beg questioning!
Question 1. Why is Steve Prescott Man of Steel winner, Challenge Cup Final hero and, yet again, top tackler in Super League Danny Houghton not in the squad?
This is the one that is on everybody’s lips. In three of the last four seasons Houghton has been the top tackler in Super League, this year though he proved he’s about a lot more than tackling anything that moves. He added line-breaks, tries and an excellent kicking game to his undeniable talent. As good as Josh Hodgson and Daryl Clark are at number 9, I personally absolutely agree with the super-talented Hodgson being in the squad, is Clark really the best back-up option?
Clark is an X-Factor player, but with two Challenge Cup Final defeats, and a Grand Final defeat, could his big-match know-how be called into question, or should Bennett at least have had Houghton in the squad as well to give him a further option? Or is there a conspiracy against Houghton that keeps him out of the England set-up?
Another question must be, Why no Jamie Shaul? The Hull FC full-back has been a standout performer in Super League and the Challenge Cup in 2016, a player, like Houghton, who the Australians and Kiwis are unaware of, as solid defensively as the best, his chase down of Chris Sandow at Wembley epitomized what he is all about.
His try scoring and support play are also something to behold, the Super League Dream Team inclusion must surely have to have been the front runner for the number 1 shirt?
Another exclusion in the snub of Hull FC players is Marc Sneyd. The Lance Todd Trophy winner, who is the top goal kicker and points scorer in Super League this year, has also been deemed surplus to requirements as Bennett has preferred to name Widnes Vikings captain Kevin Brown in his squad, is this a surprise when Brown’s club coach Denis Betts is Bennett’s assistant?
Further questioning must come from misfiring Leeds Rhinos back-rower Brett Ferres being named instead of the consistently outstanding Jack Hughes from Warrington Wolves?
With such talent being left out, by a coach looking on from 12,000 miles away, the question must remain, is having a coach living on the other side of the world, relying on others, no matter how good he may be, such a good idea? If, as is expected, England are thumped by the Australians on home territory again, that will raise even more awkward questions about coaching arrangements and influenced selections!