Sharks forward Chris Heighington was last night named by Head Coach Wayne Bennett in the England team for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.
Heighington, a premiership winner with the Sharks in 2016, is one of seven currently playing in the NRL to be selected in the 24-man squad that will be Captained by Wigan’s Sean O’Loughlin.
Dally M Half-Back of the Year, Gareth Widdop, South Sydney’s Sam and Thomas Burgess and Raiders hooker Josh Hodgson were also amongst those included.
The 24-man list features 18 players that travelled to Sydney in May for the mid-season Pacific Test against Samoa – a game in which England won 30-10 and saw tries from Ryan Hall, Jermaine McGillvary, James Graham, Hodgson and Stefan Ratchford.
On the squad, Wayne Bennett, said: “Selecting the final 24 with the help of my coaching staff was tough and that was down to the effort and performances of many players throughout the season.
“The competitiveness of Super League and NRL and knowing the goal of playing for your country in a World Cup has made many raise their game and become better athletes.
“The England programme has been very active leading into this tournament and having the squad meet up on regular occasions – on and off the field – has put us in a positive place before everyone gets into camp.
“We had to put the disappointment of the Four Nations behind us quickly and the meetings that followed that tournament set out what was required to be successful in the World Cup. Everyone has fully bought into this and we can’t wait to get started.”
On the World Cup, Bennett, added: “This is shaping up to be a very competitive tournament. Squads are being confirmed now and it’s clear to see the spread of talent will add to some exciting games.
“The organisers have been doing a fantastic job in generating excitement in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
“There’s some travel involved but we’re looking forward to spending time in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth during the group stage.”
England Rugby League World Cup 24-man squad (number of caps, professional and community club in brackets):
John Bateman (6, Wigan Warriors, Bradford Dudley Hill)
Kevin Brown (6, Warrington Wolves, Thatto Heath Crusaders)
Sam Burgess (18, South Sydney Rabbitohs, Dewsbury Moor)
Thomas Burgess (14, South Sydney Rabbitohs, Dewsbury Moor)
Ben Currie (0, Warrington Wolves, Golborne Parkside)
Luke Gale (4, Castleford Tigers, Middleton Marauders)
James Graham (33, St George Illawarra Dragons, Blackbrook)
Ryan Hall (32, Leeds Rhinos, Oulton Raiders)
Chris Heighington (5, Cronulla Sharks, Umina Bunnies)
Chris Hill (19, Warrington Wolves, New Springs Lions)
Josh Hodgson (11, Canberra Raiders, East Hull)
Jonny Lomax (4, St Helens, Orrell St James)
Jermaine McGillvary (6, Huddersfield Giants, Deighton Juniors)
Mike McMeeken (1, Castleford Tigers, Staines Titans)
Sean O’Loughlin (18, Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Patricks)
Mark Percival (3, St Helens, Halton Farnworth Hornets)
Stefan Ratchford (2, Warrington Wolves, Wigan St Patricks)
James Roby (26, St Helens, Blackbrook)
Scott Taylor (2, Hull FC, Skirlaugh)
Alex Walmsley (0, St Helens, Dewsbury Celtic)
Kallum Watkins (20, Leeds Rhinos, Latchford Albion)
Elliott Whitehead (10, Canberra Raiders, West Bowling)
Gareth Widdop (21, St George Illawarra Dragons, King Cross)
George Williams (5, Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Patricks)
England’s World Cup schedule is as follows:
Friday, October 20: Pre-tournament – England v Affiliated States (nib Stadium, Perth)
Friday, October 27: Opening game of RLWC – England v Australia (AAMI Park, Melbourne)
Saturday, November 4: England v Lebanon (Allianz Stadium, Sydney)
Sunday, November 12: England v France (nib Stadium, Perth)