England announce World Cup squad
Star fullbacks Sam Tomkins and Zak Hardaker have both been left out of Wayne Bennett's 24-man England squad for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.
Tomkins and Hardaker both missed the squad, with St Helens' Jonny Lomax and Warrington's Stefan Ratchford preferred at the back.
Tomkins had struggled to regain his best form after returning from a knee injury this season while Hardaker was stood down from the Super League Grand Final after testing positive for cocaine.
Captained by Sean O'Loughlin, the squad includes Luke Gale, who was crowned Steve Prescott MBE Man of Steel winner last week, Dally M Five-Eighth of the Year Gareth Widdop and the Super League's top metre-maker, Alex Walmsley.
St Helens hooker James Roby also returns to the squad after a two-year absence in what will be the 31-year-old's third World Cup after representing England in 2008 and 2013.
The squad features 18 players who 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, Josh Hodgson and Stefan Ratchford.
"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," Bennett said.
"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."
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)