England rugby league squad named for New Zealand opener

Wayne Bennett has left his half-back options for Saturday’s first Test against New Zealand open after including four possibilities in his 19-man squad.

Having revealed on Monday that St Helens’ Jonny Lomax is likely to play full-back in the Hull showdown, Bennett has named George Williams, Sam Tomkins, Jake Connor and late call-up Richie Myler.

A further playmaker, last week’s Grand Final man of the match Stefan Ratchford, is one of five squad members omitted, alongside Tom Johnstone, Reece Lyne, Joe Greenwood and Adam Milner.

Another late addition to Bennett’s ranks, uncapped Wigan centre Oliver Gildart, has jumped ahead of that group.

John Bateman now looks certain to revert to the back row.

Lomax – who has spent most of this season at stand-off with St Helens – said: “It’s nice that Wayne has kept a bit of faith in me where I’ve played in the past for him.

“It’s been a funny position for me this year, not knowing where I’d be playing and dropping in and out of stand-off and full-back at club level.

“Having the ability to go between the positions gives you an appreciation of the lads at half-back and full-back, to understand the lines that they want you to run.”

Lomax and St Helens team-mate Tommy Makinson were rested for the midweek Test against France with minor injuries, but are not now fully fit.

If selected, Catalans-bound Tomkins would make a first England appearance in four years.

ENGLAND SQUAD Bateman (Wigan), G Burgess (South Sydney), T Burgess (South Sydney), Clark (Warrington), Connor (Hull FC), Gildart (Wigan), Graham (St George Illawarra), Hill (Warrington), Hodgson (Canberra), Lomax (St Helens), Makinson (St Helens), McGillvary (Huddersfield), Myler (Leeds), O’Loughlin (Wigan), Percival (St Helens), Thompson (St Helens), Tomkins (Wigan), Whitehead (Canberra), Williams (Wigan).

* LEEDS chief executive Gary Hetherington insists incoming coach David Furner will be joining the club, despite reports in Australia suggesting he will be appointed the next boss of South Sydney.

Hetherington said: “We are looking forward to Dave arriving at the club and plans are well advanced for next season.”

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