Hull FC full-back Connor, who also played for the All Star last year, and Wakefield Trinity winger Johnstone have both been picked by Ellery Hanley for the mid-season international; watch England face the Combined Nations All Stars live on Sky Sports on June 18
Last Updated: 22/04/22 3:50pm
English pair Jake Connor and Tom Johnstone are both in line to face Shaun Wane’s side this summer after being named in the extended Combined Nations All Stars squad.
Hull FC full-back Connor, who played for the Combined Nations against England last year and is of Trinidadian heritage, and Wakefield Trinity winger Johnstone – also eligible for Scotland and Germany – have both been picked by All Stars coach Ellery Hanley for the mid-season international.
Both players have so far been overlooked by England boss Wane as he plans for this autumn’s rearranged Rugby League World Cup, but are set to have a chance to impress in the All Stars match, which takes place at Warrington’s Halliwell Jones Stadium on June 18 as part of a double-header which sees England Women face France and is live on Sky Sports.
“I’ve spoken to every one of these players personally because I think that’s the way to do things correctly, and I have been overwhelmed and so impressed by the way they have responded,” former Great Britain captain Hanley said.
“It was important for me to talk through the values and qualities I am expecting from them, and the message I got back from them was that they are ready to go – and so proud to have the chance to be involved.”
Hanley’s side could also feature several of England’s potential Samoan World Cup opponents, with the two sides clashing in the opening match of the tournament at St James’ Park in Newcastle on October 15.
Hanley’s squad includes nine players of Samoan heritage in Sam Kasiano (Catalans Dragons), Danny Levi, Ricky Leutele (both Huddersfield Giants), Mason Lino (Wakefield), Ligi Sao, Carlos Tuimavave (both Hull FC), Tim Lafai, Ken Sio (both Salford Red Devils) and Peter Mata’utia (Warrington Wolves).
Adding to the Polynesian flavour of Hanley’s squad are six players from Tonga, a side again tipped to do well in the World Cup having reached the semi-finals in 2017.
The Tongan influence is also appropriate with both sides to wear Tonga-inspired jerseys to raise funds for the relief effort following January’s devastating volcanic eruption and tsunami in the country.
The Tongan players in Hanley’s group are David Fifita, Kelepi Tanginoa (Wakefield), Samisoni Langi (Catalans), Tui Lolohea (Huddersfield), Manu Ma’u and Chris Satae (Hull FC).
Other players in the squad who could also feature in the World Cup are Hull FC’s Joe Lovodua (Fiji), Leeds Rhinos second row Rhyse Martin (Papua New Guinea) and Catalans captain Ben Garcia (France).
“The door is still open for other players to force their way in between now and June – we know there are going to be injuries, as we have already seen, and hence the reason for naming this large squad, which we will reduce as we get nearer to the match,” Hanley said.
“It’s also important for fans and players to recognise the framework we’ve been given to work with, in that no more than six players will be selected for the match from any one Super League club.
“Some people will raise eyebrows and ask why we haven’t included any of the brilliant St Helens players – for example I’d have loved to include Sione Mata’utia in our squad alongside his brother Peter.
“But we have to recognise that a lot of St Helens players are very important to Shaun Wane’s plans for England this year, so it was more sensible for us to look to other clubs across the Super League.”
Combined Nations All Stars initial 30-man squad
Jake Connor, Kenny Edwards, Jai Field, David Fifita, Ben Garcia, Tom Johnstone, Sam Kasiano, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Tim Lafai, Samisoni Langi, Ricky Leutele, Danny Levi, Kane Linnett, Mason Lino, Tui Lolohea, Joe Lovodua, Jake Mamo, Rhys Martin, Peter Mata’utia, Manu Ma’u, Mitchell Pearce, Matt Prior, Ligi Sao, Chris Satae, Ken Sio, Kelepi Tanginoa, Zane Tetevano, Carlos Tuimavave, Luke Yates.