1. Jamie Shaul (Hull FC)
The 24-year old has continued his journey to stardom in 2016 and been a key cog in Hull FC’s spectacular rise to the top. Shaul scored the winning try for his hometown club in the Challenge Cup Final in their first ever Wembley victory last month, and is the club’s top try scorer with 14 efforts this season. With a higher average gain than any other English full-back, 2016 may be time for Shaul to make his international debut.
With Zak Hardaker finding game time hard to come by in the NRL, and Sam Tomkins not living up to expectations in his return to Super League, the Hull star is the choice amongst most supporters and pundits.
2. Joe Burgess (South Sydney)
After leaving Wigan for an NRL adventure this season, it hasn’t exactly gone to plan for Joe Burgess, who will be back with the Warriors in 2017. The 21-year old is almost certainly a future star but his move to the Sydney Roosters came too soon. After just 4 appearances, he moved across the city to the Rabbitohs where he still struggles to secure a starting berth.
Despite not playing much in 2016, Burgess is a quality player; his 52 tries in 55 appearances over 2 seasons for Wigan demonstrates this. He has pace to burn, showed with a length of the field try in Souths final game of the season, and probably deserves the place more than some out-of form wingers in the Super League like Tom Briscoe.
3. John Bateman (Wigan)
Bateman has been one of the stand-out players for Wigan this season, undoubtedly. With 9 tires and 5 assists, he can play in several positions, but would probably be best suited to centre in the England setup. A partnership of Bateman and Burgess down one flank could be deadly, seen as though the pair played together in 2014 and 2015.
4. Kallum Watkins (Leeds)
To pick Watkins over some of Super League’s in-form centres including Ryan Atkins and Stefan Marsh is a big call, but in a stumbling Leeds side this season, the 25-year old has somewhat been able to find his feet again towards the back-end of the campaign. Watkins has a great deal of experience for England and despite a lacklustre year, he is still a key asset in the side as one of the best centres in the world at this time.
5. Ryan Hall (Leeds)
A lot of people seem to have completely forgotten about Ryan Hall this season; similar to Watkins in a poor Leeds side. But to leave out England’s all time top try scorer, and 3rd most capped player when he is still just 28-year old, would be the wrong decision.
Hall is still a huge asset to have in a side, with bulky wingers all the rage at this moment in time. He is a proven try scorer for the Wall of White. It would be cruel to leave out players like Mark Percival, Jermaine McGillvary and Jodie Broughton (and Dom Manfredi if he hadn’t been injured), but international experience is key in such a crucial role.
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