Callum McLelland and Muzzi Mustapha have been called into a 22-man England Academy squad for the two-match series against the Australian Schoolboys team which begins at the Leigh Sports Village this Saturday afternoon (2pm kick-off).
Both players impressed in the Yorkshire Academy team beaten 30-22 by the tourists in Castleford last week, and join their Leeds Rhinos team-mates Corey Johnson, Harry Newman, Loui McConnell, Owen Trout and Tom Holroyd in the England squad – with all seven therefore in with a chance of representing their country on home territory with the second international coming at Emerald Headingley on Friday week, December 14.
Wigan have five players in the 22 – Ethan Havard, Harry Smith, James McDonnell, Joe Shorrocks and Morgan Smithies.
St Helens have four representatives – Jack Welsby, Jake Wingfield, Josh Simm and Tom Nisbet.
Huddersfield are represented by Innes and Louis Senior, twin brothers who made their senior Super League debuts for the Giants in 2018, while Cameron Scott is the only player selected from the City of Hull Academy after Hull FC’s Jack Brown and Hull KR’s Elliot Wallis were not considered because of injuries.
The squad is completed by three players from clubs who will play in the Betfred Championship in 2019 – Ben Davies and Sam Walters of the Widnes Vikings, and Oliver Wilson of the Bradford Bulls.
Dave Elliott, the former Warrington forward who has been involved in the England Academy set-up since 2010, said: “Games against the Australian Schoolboys are always special, and we’re all really looking forward to what’s coming up in the next couple of weeks.
“The Aussies are a strong, athletic and talented group, as always. But Yorkshire and Lancashire both acquitted themselves really well in their games against the Australians in the last week or so, and I’m excited about the talent and the ability we’ve got in our England squad.
“We’d said that places in the squad were still available for lads who produced performances in those games. In Callum’s case it was more a question of seeing him play rugby league again after his time in Scottish rugby union, and Muzzi Mustapha was outstanding.
“It’s always exciting to bring together a group of lads from different clubs – that experience alone makes Academy internationals like this really valuable in terms of the different experience it provides.
“The lads are also lucky to have a couple of outstanding coaches who have been released by their clubs to work with the squad in James Ford, who has done such a great job with York over the last couple of years, and Jamie Langley, who has made a terrific start to his transition from playing to coaching with London Broncos. I’m really enjoying working with both of them, and hopefully they’re also enjoying and benefiting from this experience.”
Langley has fond personal memories of junior internationals, having captained a team including the likes of Luke Robinson and Gareth Hock who claimed an historic series victory over the Schoolboys in 2002 under the coaching of the late Mike Gregory.
There has been one sour note in the build-up to the internationals for the England squad, with the shock news that the St Helens and Lancashire forward Joe Sharratt is in hospital after suffering serious injuries in a well-publicised incident in Manchester at the weekend.
“Joe is a popular and respected lad among the group who was exemplary in everything he did with the Lancashire squad last week, and he was a key figure in their team performing so well against the Australians,” added Elliott.
“We’re all thinking of him, and I’d like to send our best wishes on behalf of the whole squad and everyone else at the Rugby Football League to Joe and his family.”
England Academy squad:
Ben Davies (Widnes Vikings), Cameron Scott (City of Hull Academy), Corey Johnson (Leeds Rhinos), Callum McLelland (Leeds Rhinos), Ethan Havard (Wigan Warriors), Harry Newman (Leeds Rhinos), Harry Smith (Wigan Warriors), Innes Senior (Huddersfield Giants), Muzzi Mustapha (Leeds Rhinos), Jack Welsby (St Helens), Jake Wingfield (St Helens), James McDonnell (Wigan Warriors), Joe Shorrocks (Wigan Warriors), Josh Simm (St Helens), Loui McConnell (Leeds Rhinos), Louis Senior (Huddersfield Giants), Morgan Smithies (Wigan Warriors), Oliver Wilson (Bradford Bulls), Owen Trout (Leeds Rhinos), Sam Walters (Widnes Vikings), Tom Holroyd (Leeds Rhinos), Tom Nisbet (St Helens).