Former Canberra five-eighth Blake Austin is set to make his England debut at the World Cup Nines after being called up to replace Warrington teammate Jack Hughes.
Austin, who has been a star for the Wolves in his first season of Super League, was born in Australia but declared his allegiance to England before the 2017 World Cup and is now set to play in the Nines at Bankwest Stadium on October 18 and 19.
He qualifies for England through his maternal grandmother and was called into an elite performance squad in July to prepare for the World Cup Nines and Great Britain Lions tour.
The withdrawal of Hughes due to injury has opened the door for Austin to make his international debut and he will have an early opportunity to form a partnership with departing St George Illawarra captain Gareth Widdop.
The pair are set to be halves partners at Warrington next season under coach Steve Price, who previously recruited Widdop from Melbourne to the Dragons in 2014.
Austin led voting for the Man of Steel award for most of the season but finished third behind Salford halfback Jackson Hastings and Castleford prop Liam Watts after being sidelined for a month with an ankle injury.
With Canberra-bound halfback George Williams and Castleford rookie Jake Trueman also in the Nines squad and Jonny Lomax, Luke Gale and Kevin Brown unavailable, England’s depth of playmakers has rarely been stronger.
Burgess looking at bigger picture with World Cup Nines
Gale and Brown are injured, while Lomax was not considered as he will playing for St Helens in this weekend’s Super League grand final against Salford at Old Trafford.
Hastings has also put his hand up to play for Great Britain against Tonga at Hamilton on October 26, New Zealand in Auckland on November 2 and Christchurch on November 9, and Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby on November 16.
The St George Illawarra junior, who has an English grandmother, has put his acrimonious departure from Manly behind him to lead Salford to their first Super League grand final.
"For years our competition has probably scratched its head when it’s looked at international teams and the halfback combinations we’ve had but there is now some real depth," RFL director of rugby Kevin Sinfield said.
"You throw the two in this year who put their hand up – Blake and Jackson – and you add in what we’ve already got, I think it’s a real strength now."
For ticket and travel packages for the Downer Rugby League World Cup 9s Sydney 2019, head to nrl.com/tickets.