Australian-born playmaker Blake Austin is in serious contention to play for England and Great Britain at the end of the season after being named in a 27-man elite performance squad.
Austin, the former Penrith, Wests Tigers and Canberra five-eighth, qualifies for England through his maternal grandmother and declared a desire to represent his heritage before the 2017 World Cup.
He was overlooked for the tournament but now appears set to get his chance after starring in the Super League since joining Warrington this season.
The 28-year-old has scored 19 tries in 24 games and leads voting in the Steve Prescott Man of Steel.
He was the only new face chosen by England coach Wayne Bennett for the elite performance squad.
The squad meets regularly to maintain focus on the 2021 World Cup in England and will next month gather for the third time ahead of the Downer World Cup Nines at Bankwest Stadium on October 18-19.
A Great Britain Performance Squad will be selected in September ahead of the Lions tour, which includes Tests against New Zealand, Tonga and Papua New Guinea.
Kevin Sinfield, the RFL’s Rugby Director who leads the England Performance Unit, said Austin had demonstrated a commitment to playing for the nation ahead of the World Cup.
“Blake Austin is a quality player but just as important is his commitment to joining our England squad,” Sinfield said.
“Unlike a few other guys who would qualify to play for Great Britain later this year through their ancestry from other Home Nations, he would make himself unavailable to play any representative rugby in Australia as soon as he plays for England, because England are a Tier One nation.
“That is a good indication of his commitment to joining our group, and we believe he will be a very positive addition.”
Austin leads Man of Steel voting by three points from former Roosters and Manly halfback Jackson Hastings, who is also eligible for England.
Hastings, who plays for Salford, last week agreed to join Wigan in 2020 as a replacement for Canberra-bound England Test halfback George Williams.
Former Panthers and North Queensland fullback Lachlan Coote is another Australian-born player with British heritage who is in contention for the Lions tour.
England Rugby League Elite Performance Squad:
Luke Gale (Castleford Tigers); Jake Trueman (Castleford Tigers); Liam Watts (Castleford Tigers); Sam Tomkins (Catalans Dragons); Jermaine McGillvary (Huddersfield Giants); Jake Connor (Hull FC); Jamie Shaul (Hull FC); Scott Taylor (Hull FC); Stevie Ward (Leeds Rhinos); Jonny Lomax (St Helens); Tommy Makinson (St Helens); Mark Percival (St Helens); James Roby (St Helens); Luke Thompson (St Helens); Alex Walmsley (St Helens); Tom Johnstone (Wakefield Trinity); Reece Lyne (Wakefield Trinity); Blake Austin (Warrington Wolves); Josh Charnley (Warrington Wolves); Daryl Clark (Warrington Wolves); Ben Currie (Warrington Wolves); Chris Hill (Warrington Wolves); Jack Hughes (Warrington Wolves); Stefan Ratchford (Warrington Wolves); Oliver Gildart (Wigan Warriors); Sean O’Loughlin (Wigan Warriors); George Williams (Wigan Warriors).