Jake Connor’s explosive form for injury hit Hull has been recognised with his selection in England’s 19-man squad for the historic Test against New Zealand in Denver.
The 23-year-old former Huddersfield outside back is one of three uncapped players chosen by head coach Wayne Bennett for the groundbreaking international at the Mile High Stadium on Saturday, June 23.
St Helens pair Luke Thompson and Tommy Makinson are the other new faces while Bennett has included all three Burgess brothers from South Sydney, reuniting George with twin Tom and older sibling Sam after missing out on the 2017 World Cup.
Despite initial opposition from NRL clubs, the Burgess brothers are joined in the squad by St George Illawarra’s James Graham and Gareth Widdop, and Canberra second rower Elliott Whitehead.
Connor was in the England Knights performance squad due to tour Papua New Guinea in the autumn but his sparkling form in a variety of positions for Hull this year has earned him promotion to the senior squad.
In promoting Connor and prop Thompson from the Knights squad, Bennett has gone for the men in form but he has also demonstrated loyalty by sticking with his World Cup wingers, Jermaine McGillvary and Ryan Hall, so Makinson is not guaranteed to win his first cap in Colorado.
McGillvary, who scored seven tries in six appearances at the World Cup, and Hall, England’s all-time record tryscorer, fought off competition from Tom Johnstone and Josh Charnley to retain their places.
Thompson’s call-up is no surprise after a huge season so far with the Betfred Super League leaders, who provide five of the 13 England-based players.
James Roby is the only specialist hooker in the squad, while Mark Percival looks assured of a centre berth and Jonny Lomax will be vying with Stefan Ratchford and Widdop for both full-back and half-back roles in the absence of the injured Luke Gale.
“We have been impressed with all the players this season and the three uncapped players deserve their call-ups after showing their talent and determination both on and off the field.
“We have always been clear that the door to the senior squad is open to any player showing the form to be selected.
“The squad has a real mix of experience and youth and that will prove important during our time in Denver.
“Playing a mid-season test against Samoa last year proved invaluable and I’m sure this will be the same.
“It gives the team a chance to spend time together and me and my coaching staff to see how they perform together against one of the best teams in the world ahead of the Test series in the autumn.”
England’s 19-man squad is: J Bateman (Wigan), G Burgess, S Burgess, T Burgess (all South Sydney), J Connor (Hull), J Graham (St George Illawarra), R Hall (Leeds), C Hill (Warrington), J Lomax (St Helens), T Makinson (St Helens), J McGillvary (Huddersfield), S O’Loughlin (Wigan, capt), M Percival (St Helens), S Ratchford (Warrington), J Roby (St Helens) L Thompson (St Helens), G Widdop (St George Illawarra), G Williams (Wigan), E Whitehead (Canberra).