Carl Ablett included in England Four Nations squad

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The Independent Online

Carl Ablett has cancelled his stag do to Las Vegas after receiving a shock call into England's squad for the Gillette Four Nations Series.

The 25-year-old was set to fly to America this week after wrapping up his best-ever season with newly-crowned Super League champions Leeds Rhinos but will instead go into camp with England on Wednesday in the hope of winning his first cap.

The versatile second rower-turned centre is one of seven players from the Rhinos named in a 24-man squad by coach Steve McNamara, who has used form and fitness as the primary considerations in his selection process.

Leeds did not have a single player in the 2011 Super League Dream Team but their late-season revival, culminating in a runners-up spot at Wembley and Grand-Final glory, has reaped further reward.

"I think it's important we have players who are confident and in form and players who are not carrying injuries as well," McNamara told a news conference at the South Leeds Stadium.

"The form of Leeds at the back end of the season has certainly strengthened their claims."

Ablett is joined by team-mates Ryan Hall, Kevin Sinfield, uncapped winger Ben Jones-Bishop, recalled forwards Ryan Bailey and Jamie Jones-Bishop and veteran prop Jamie Peacock, who was confirmed as captain.

There are four players from Grand Final runners-up St Helens but just two representatives from Wigan, with second rower or centre Joel Tomkins making himself unavailable amid growing speculation that he is set to switch codes by signing for Saracens.

Ablett, who revealed in the aftermath of Leeds' 32-16 win over Saints at Old Trafford that he sustained a fractured cheekbone in the last match of the regular Super League season, is one of six new faces.

"He's two players in one," explained McNamara. "He's got great versatility.

"He's obviously playing centre at the moment with Leeds but he's capable of playing in the back row as well. That's why he's a very valuable member of the squad.

"He's had to cancel his stag trip to Las Vegas on Wednesday so he's made a big sacrifice. He's obviously delighted with his call-up, even though it's cost him a few quid."

Another Leeds player, half-back or hooker Rob Burrow, who was man of the match in the Grand Final, was not considered because of injury.

"Rob has been outstanding in the second half of the season but he's had a rib injury that's been bothering him for quite a number of weeks," McNamara said.

"He's been playing with injections and not been able to train."

St Helens centre Michael Shenton, who dislocated an elbow at Old Trafford, is also ruled out by injury, along with Warrington centre Chris Bridge, Huddersfield prop Eorl Crabtree, Wigan loose forward Sean O'Loughlin and South Sydney forward Sam Burgess.

Joel Tomkins and Warrington centre Ryan Atkins both ruled themselves out with personal issues, with McNamara reluctant to expand on the Wigan player's situation.

"Joel asked not to be considered for personal reasons," he said. "You'll have to speak to Joel, his manager or his club.

"It's disappointing that he wasn't available and there are always going to be players drop out but I'm really happy with what I've got.

"I'm happy with the balance and there is an excellent blend of strength, experience and flair."

St Helens' 20-year-old half-back Jonny Lomax got the nod over Warrington's Richie Myler and Huddersfield's Danny Brough and, as expected, the squad includes Castleford's Maori international Rangi Chase and Australia-based quartet Chris Heighington, Gareth Widdop, Jack Reed and Gareth Ellis.

Wests Tigers team-mates and back row partners Heighington and Ellis are already in training while Reed and Widdop are currently in flight and will link up with the squad on Wednesday, along with the Grand Finalists.

England play a warm-up international against France in Avignon on Friday week before playing their first Four Nations game against Wales at Leigh Sports Village on Saturday, October 29.

Before then, a youthful England Knights squad play their first fixture against France at Leigh on Saturday afternoon.