Jack Hughes has been appointed captain of the England Knights squad who will head for Papua New Guinea via Brisbane later this month to play two international fixtures against the Kumuls.
The 26-year-old is joined by three more members of the Warrington Wolves team who played in the Challenge Cup final at Wembley in August – Toby King, Harvey Livett and Joe Philbin – in the first Knights squad that has been selected since they faced Samoa in 2013.
The Knights were revived earlier this year by the Rugby Football League, at the instigation of Kevin Sinfield MBE in his role as rugby director, as a key part of England’s preparations for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup – and will be coached by Paul Anderson, the former England and Great Britain prop, assisted by his former St Helens and international team-mate Paul Sculthorpe MBE.
Sculthorpe was a member of the last Great Britain team to play in Papua New Guinea, in 1996, making his international debut as a 19-year-old in the 32-30 victory over the Kumuls in Lae – the venue for the first international of this tour.
Leeds Rhinos also have four players in the 24-man squad – Jack Walker, Ash Handley, Liam Sutcliffe and Mikolaj Oledzki, a 20-year-old prop who was born in Poland, but moved to Northamptonshire with his family at the age of 9.
Walker is one of two nominees for the Young Player of the Year in the Betfred Super League who are included in the squad – alongside the St Helens second-row Matty Lees.
Danny Richardson, the Saints scrum-half who was selected in the 2018 Betfred Dream Team earlier this week, is also included.
Wigan Warriors and Hull FC each have three players in the squad; Castleford Tigers, Hull Kingston Rovers and Widnes Vikings two each; and Huddersfield Giants and Wakefield Trinity one each.
“I’m as excited about the squad as I am about the trip,” said Anderson.
“When you add it to the England squad that was named earlier this week for the autumn internationals, it shows we’ve got a real depth of talent coming through.
“Playing in Papua New Guinea is going to be a completely different experience for all the players in our squad. That off-field touring experience is one of the reasons reviving the Knights was so important.
“We’re expecting a warm welcome in a country where they love their rugby league, and hopefully our visit will also be a boost for rugby league in PNG.
“The lads have already seen from the elevation of Joe Greenwood and Reece Lyne from the Knights squad to the senior England squad the sort of opportunities that could open up if they impress on this trip.”
The Knights leave on October 18 for a week’s preparation at the state-of-the-art Brisbane Broncos training base.
They then fly to Lae for the first match against the Kumuls on Saturday October 27, before moving to the capital Port Moresby where the teams meet again at the 15,000-capacity Oil Search National Football Stadium on November 3.
England Knights Squad:
- Oliver Holmes (Castleford Tigers, Normanton Knights)
- Greg Minikin (Castleford Tigers, Wetherby Bulldogs)
- Kruise Leeming (Huddersfield Giants, Siddal)
- Chris Atkin (Hull KR, Widnes St Maries)
- Robbie Mulhern (Hull KR. Normanton Knights)
- Jamie Shaul (Hull FC, Skirlaugh)
- Dean Hadley (Hull FC, Skirlaugh)
- Brad Fash (Hull FC, West Hull)
- Mikolaj Oledzki (Leeds Rhinos, Hunslet Warriors)
- Liam Sutcliffe (Leeds Rhinos, Hunslet Warriors)
- Jack Walker (Leeds Rhinos, East Leeds)
- Ash Handley (Leeds Rhinos, Oulton Raiders)
- Danny Richardson (St Helens, Halton Hornets)
- Matt Lees (St Helens, Rochdale Mayfield)
- James Batchelor (Wakefield Trinity, Crigglestone All Blacks)
- Sam Powell (Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Patricks)
- Oliver Gildart (Wigan Warriors, Chorley Panthers)
- Tom Davies (Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Patricks)
- Harvey Livett (Warrington Wolves, Rylands Sharks)
- Jack Hughes (Warrington Wolves, Golborne Parkside)
- Joe Philbin (Warrington Wolves, Culcheth Eagles)
- Toby King (Warrington Wolves, Meltham All Backs)
- Matt Whitley (Widnes Vikings, Bold Miners)
- Danny Walker (Widnes Vikings, Rylands Sharks)