Return of three stalwarts in twilight of careers brings so much extra to England side

The England squad selection is a story of redemption, renewal and new birth.

Against the Combined Nations All Stars, there’s four debutants and also some who you could almost call ‘second’ debutants. I’d like to look at the latter, in particular Micky McIlorum, Ryan Hall and Kallum Watkins. It’s great to see Micky’s been brought back into the England squad for the first time since 2013.

It’s brilliant that almost ten years later, in the twilight of his career, he can still play well enough to get back in for his country. Watching Micky with Catalans, he’s playing as well as ever. He’s always been an aggressive player and England will need that against the All Stars. They’ll need line speed against their big forwards.

Like Micky, Hally and Kallum are others getting a second shot in the twilight of their careers. They’ve both moved on from playing for a decade for an outstanding Leeds team to find their feet elsewhere at Hull KR and Salford respectively. And they’re rightly back playing internationally again. Those two have seniority now and bring great athletic ability plus the knowledge they’ve played this level before. They’ll add calmness, too.

Kal’s playing centre for England but shifted to second-row with Salford this season. That’s a good thing for England: with him being bigger now, putting weight on, it helps him play centre for his country. That’s because internationally, everyone is big. Everyone’s double XL. Playing centre for England will be like slipping on an old shoe for Kal.

I’d have liked to have seen Paul McShane start in the halves with George Williams. Then, after about 25 minutes, swap McShane and Micky around at hooker, moving Jack Welsby into the halves from the bench rather than starting him on debut at six.

I just think that experience and direction McShane brings, whether at hooker or half, is vital for England. Williams and Welsby are great instinctive players but I’m not sure organising is their great strength. But I’m delighted Welsby is in. He’ll be a key player for England in the World Cup; he’s got great versatility and is just a great player.


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