Two Huddersfield Giants players have been called up for the England training squads.
World Cup sensation Jermaine McGillvary is in Wayne Bennett’s 21-man elite performance squad , while Kruise Leeming makes the England Knights performance squad.
Bennett, said: “The Elite Performance Squad sessions in 2017 proved invaluable for the players in the build-up to the World Cup and it’s important that we do all we can to enable them to spend quality time together in an international environment.
“The 21-man EPS includes a mixture of experienced international players from the 2017 World Cup Squad, returning players and a new inclusion with Tom Johnstone.
“It’s important for us to focus on the Test matches this year but also keep in mind the 2021 World Cup too, and the return of the England Knights Performance Squad ensures that we give players valuable time in an international set up.
“It is a very positive step for England Rugby League and all 46 players across both squads have the opportunity to impress my coaching staff in the coming months.
“The mid-season test in Denver is a great opportunity to test ourselves against strong opposition and whilst those selected for both performance squads have put themselves in a good place to be considered for selection, we are always looking at all players in both the Super League and NRL and the door is never shut on any player who impresses.”
Wakefield’s uncapped winger Johnstone has been named in the elite squad.
The 22-year-old has been on England’s radar since bursting onto the scene in spectacular fashion in 2016 but a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament last April ruled him out of the reckoning for the World Cup.
However, Johnstone, born in Germany where his Army-serving father was stationed, made an impressive comeback with a hat trick of tries in Trinity’s opening match of the 2018 Betfred Super League season and is rewarded with selection.
Johnstone is the solitary new face in the squad, which will meet at regular intervals throughout the year in preparation for the June 23 Test against New Zealand in Denver and the autumn series against the Kiwis.
Leeds second rower Stevie Ward, who was ruled out of the World Cup due to shoulder surgery, edges closer to making his England debut with his inclusion and there is a recall for Warrington hooker Daryl Clark.
Winger Tom Makinson, another uncapped player, is one of five representatives from Super League leaders St Helens.
Elite squad: Luke Gale (Castleford Tigers), Mike McMeeken (Castleford Tigers), Jermaine McGillvary (Huddersfield Giants), Scott Taylor (Hull FC), Ryan Hall (Leeds Rhinos), Stevie Ward (Leeds Rhinos), Kallum Watkins (Leeds Rhinos), Jonny Lomax (St Helens), Tommy Makinson (St Helens), Mark Percival (St Helens), James Roby (St Helens), Alex Walmsley (St Helens), Tom Johnstone (Wakefield Trinity), Kevin Brown (Warrington Wolves), Daryl Clark (Warrington Wolves), Ben Currie (Warrington Wolves), Chris Hill (Warrington Wolves), Stefan Ratchford (Warrington Wolves),
John Bateman (Wigan Warriors), Sean O’Loughlin (Wigan Warriors), George Williams (Wigan Warriors).
England Knights Performance Squad: Greg Minikin (Castleford Tigers), Jake Trueman (Castleford Tigers), Kruise Leeming (Huddersfield Giants), Josh Bowden (Hull FC), Jake Connor (Hull FC),
Dean Hadley (Hull FC), Masimbaashe Matongo (Hull FC), Jamie Shaul (Hull FC), Chris Atkin (Hull KR), Liam Sutcliffe (Leeds Rhinos), Jack Walker (Leeds Rhinos), James Cunningham (London Broncos), Joe Burgess (Wigan Warriors), Tom Davies (Wigan Warriors), Oliver Gildart (Wigan Warriors), Sam Powell (Wigan Warriors), Ryan Sutton (Wigan Warriors), Niall Evalds (Salford Red Devils), Danny Richardson (St Helens), Luke Thompson (St Helens), Reece Lyne (Wakefield Trinity), Jack Hughes (Warrington Wolves), Tom Gilmore (Widnes Vikings), Danny Walker (Widnes Vikings),
Matt Whitley (Widnes Vikings).