Lomax, eight NRL players in England squad

St Helens fullback Jonny Lomax is the surprise inclusion while there are eight Australian-based players in Wayne Bennett’s England squad.

The uncapped Lomax, who turned 26 last month, missed the first 11 weeks of the Super League season after undergoing a second knee reconstruction but played a major role in Saints’ surge in the second half of the year.

He is the only player to be chosen from outside the 31-strong Super League-based group that was invited to meet Bennett during his week-long trip to England in June and is set to profit from the absence of Sam Tomkins, who is injured, and Zak Hardaker, who has been ignored.

Wigan captain Sean O’Loughlin was one of 16 players left out of that group – despite making his comeback from a calf injury in Saturday’s grand final – when Bennett finalised his 24-man squad for the international against France in Avignon on Saturday, October 22, and the Four Nations Series which follows.

Bennett has resisted the temptation to select Australia-born players but has chosen eight NRL-based current England internationals, including Sam Burgess, who is set to make his first appearance since the 2013 World Cup.

“I’ve always said that there wouldn’t be too many changes when I arrived and there are plenty of guys in the squad who worked hard in last year’s international series win against New Zealand who have gone on and performed in 2016,” Bennett said.

Lomax is one of three new faces – his St Helens teammate Mark Percival and Hull prop Scott Taylor are the others – while Castleford halfback Luke Gale and Warrington utility player Stefan Ratchford are hoping to win their first caps after being non-playing members of previous England squads.

Hardaker, the 2015 Man of Steel who played in all three matches of England’s Test series win over New Zealand last year, was not selected after losing his place at Leeds while other notable absentees are Wigan scrum-half Matty Smith and St Helens hooker James Roby.

The absence of O’Loughlin means Bennett will have to appoint a new captain, with former St Helens prop James Graham the favourite, although Burgess, Warrington skipper Chris Hill and St George Illawarra captain Gareth Widdop could come into the reckoning.

England squad:

J Bateman (Wigan), K Brown (Widnes), G Burgess (South Sydney), S Burgess (South Sydney), T Burgess (South Sydney), D Clark (Warrington), M Cooper (St George Illawarra), L Farrell (Wigan), B Ferres (Leeds), L Gale (Castleford), J Graham (Canterbury Bulldogs), R Hall (Leeds), C Hill (Warrington), J Hodgson (Canberra), J Lomax (St Helens), J McGillvary (Huddersfield), M Percival (St Helens), S Ratchford (Warrington), D Sarginson (Wigan), S Taylor (Hull FC), K Watkins (Leeds), E Whitehead (Canberra), G Widdop (St George Illawarra), G Williams (Wigan).

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