Rugby League World Cup: Eorl Crabtree misses out as Steve McNamara names three Burgess brothers in England squad
McNamara revealed that uncapped twins George and Tom will join older brother Sam in the 24-man squad
Dave Hadfield was a schoolboy convert to rugby league, the game which, one way or another, has dominated his life ever since. After working for newspapers in Shropshire and Blackpool (where he covered the fortunes of Blackpool Borough) he travelled the world, working mainly in Hong Kong and Sydney. He became The Independent's rugby league man in 1990 and has written five books on the game and broadcast extensively for Sky and the BBC. Dave played his last game at the age of 53 and would have set up a try if anyone could have been bothered supporting his break. When not writing about the sport, he now limits himself to a bit of tick and pass with his local club, the Bolton Mets. Family includes supporters - of varying degrees of dedication - of Salford, Wigan, Sheffield Eagles and St George Illawarra.
Tuesday 01 October 2013
There are three Burgess brothers in England’s World Cup squad – but not a single Morley or Crabtree.
Sam Burgess and his twin brothers, Tom and George, are all included in Steve McNamara's 24-man party for the tournament, which starts later this month.
That means that, of the quartet of Dewsbury-born siblings who have played together at South Sydney, only the former Leeds prop, Luke Burgess, has missed out.
Tom and George, still aged only 21, have made the most dramatic progress in the NRL this season, becoming regular members of a successful Souths side.
That sort of form against some of Australia's best has persuaded McNamara to make them the only two uncapped players in his squad.
That leaves no room for the veteran Warrington front-rower, Adrian Morley, nor for Eorl Crabtree, a regular in recent England sides and outstanding for Huddersfield this season. Both of those are highly debatable omissions. Unlike two other senior forwards, Jamie Peacock and Gareth Ellis, Morley has not retired from international rugby and was available for selection.
Equally contentious is the decision to include Gareth Hock. There is no doubting his ability, but his season on loan from Wigan to Widnes has been punctuated by injury and suspension.
He had been due to join the Australian club, Parramatta, next season, but now, like Morley, is going to Salford.
He gets the nod for a back-row spot, ahead of the likes of St Helens' Jon Wilkin. Huddersfield's Brett Ferres is a travelling reserve for England's training camp at altitude in South Africa, which begins this week, but is not in the World Cup squad.
He could be regarded as cover for Wigan's Sean O'Loughlin, whose place in their Grand Final line-up against Warrington on Saturday remains in doubt with an Achilles injury.
If their representation in that showdown at Old Trafford is any guide, then Wigan deserve to be favourites. They, like Leeds, have six players named, whilst Warrington have a mere two - the forwards, Chris Hill and Ben Westwood.
Players involved in the Grand Final will fly out to link up with the main party in South Africa next week. Their preparation concludes with a warm-up game against Italy at Salford on 19 October, a week before the World Cup begins with their fixture against Australia in Cardiff.
Two other English-born players in the NRL, the Canterbury prop, James Graham, and the Melbourne stand-off, Gareth Widdop, are also in the squad.
Widdop, originally from Halifax, has recovered from a dislocated hip, but Brisbane's Castleford-born centre, Jack Reed, is ruled out by surgery.
Widdop will be competing for a place with Rangi Chase, assuming that the England captain, Kevin Sinfield starts in the halves.
Reed had been a near-certainty at left centre. Now Leeds' utility player, Carl Ablett looks a strong contender, with Kallum Watkins and Leroy Cudjoe fighting it out on the other side of the field.
"This squad will need to work extremely hard and play to a very high level to win the tournament and we believe we have selected a squad capable of doing just that," McNamara said.
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