Huddersfield Giants duo Jermaine McGillvary and Leroy Cudjoe have been named in England’s 31-man elite training squad.
They’ve been selected by coach Wayne Bennett to prepare for this year’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
The news came as Giants coach Rick Stone is preparing his side for a Saturday friendly against Workington at the John Smith’s Stadium and next Wednesday’s warm-up tester at Warrington.
Castleford forward Mike McMeeken is the eye-catching inclusion.
The 22-year-old Basingstoke-born second rower has been a revelation since he left London Broncos to join Castleford two years ago.
Reigning Super League Man of Steel Danny Houghton and his Hull teammate Jamie Shaul are also among the new faces, while there are recalls for St Helens hooker James Roby, Castleford captain Michael Shenton and his new teammate Zak Hardaker.
Wigan captain Sean O’Loughlin, who led England to a series victory over New Zealand in 2015, is also called up after missing last year’s Four Nations series through injury.
The squad of Super League-based players will attend the first of six training sessions run by England assistant coaches Paul Anderson and Paul Sculthorpe on Monday, February 27, while Bennett will meet with the squad and Super League coaches in mid-February to outline his World Cup plans.
Bennett, who is bringing his Brisbane Broncos team over to England for the World Club Series in February, had hoped to organise a pre-season warm-weather training camp in Dubai until the proposal met with firm opposition from several coaches.
The Rugby Football League has, however, confirmed a mid-season Test against Samoa on Saturday, May 6, at a Sydney venue still to be determined.
Bennett will announce his Test squad in April before revising his training squad in late May or early June for the start of the next phase of his elite training programme on June 26.
Bennett said: “What we have put in place for the players is a programme that will enable them to spend required time together in an international environment.
“Our selection includes a mixture of the England-based players from last year’s squad, returning names who have previously been in the programme and some new faces who have been performing in Super League.
“There’s a lot of talented and committed individuals in this group who are well aware that success in a World Cup tournament doesn’t come easy. Preparation is key and we need everyone to be fully focused throughout the year.”
St Helens scrum-half Matty Smith, Warrington second rower Ben Currie and Wigan full-back Sam Tomkins have been included but will not be required to attend the training sessions until they have completed their rehabilitations from injury.
England elite performance squad: L Gale, Z Hardaker, M McMeeken, M Shenton (all Castleford), L Cudjoe, J McGillvary (Huddersfield), D Houghton, S Taylor, J Shaul (Hull FC), B Ferres, R Hall, S Ward, K Watkins (Leeds), K Amor, J Greenwood, J Lomax, M Percival, J Roby, M Smith (St Helens), K Brown, D Clark, M Cooper, B Currie, C Hill, S Ratchford (Warrington), J Bateman (Wigan), J Burgess, L Farrell, S O’Loughlin, S Tomkins, G Williams (Wigan).