Wakefield Trinity Wildcats wing wizard Ben Cockayne has been rewarded for his top form by being named in Steve McNamara’s 30-man England Elite Training Squad (ETS).
The 29-year-old, from Normanton, is the only new player in McNamara’s squad from last year’s international matches and the first ever player from Wakefield to be included in the ETS squad since it was established two years ago.
The former Hull KR and Featherstone Rovers man has been in scintillating form so far this season, scoring six tries in Wakefield’s opening five Super League fixtures and being second in the top metre maker charts.
McNamara has certainly been impressed with the winger’s form and Cockayne will no doubt be eager to further impress the England boss in Rugby League World Cup year.
“It is an honour to be selected,” said Cockayne.
“This is hopefully the first step to possibly playing for my country. To be recognised amongst the elite of English Rugby League is my biggest honour to date and I can’t wait to meet up with the rest of the England boys in the next couple of weeks.”
McNamara has been tracking Cockayne’s progress over the last 18 months and said: “We have been impressed with Ben’s all-round form in Super League over a sustained period of time and he deserves his call up to the ETS.
“The coaches and established players look forward to welcoming him into the group at our first camp later this month. We hope he can build on his selection and continue his progress as a top class Rugby League player.”
Cockayne told the Express last week that he hoped being in the best form of his life would help catch the attention of McNamara.
“It’s something that’s actually on my mind now because I do feel as though I’m performing at my best that I’ve ever played at this level,” Cockayne said before Wakefield’s trip to Catalans Dragons.
“I would like to think I’d be in with a shout and whether it comes or not that’s a different thing because you’ve got [Tom] Briscoe, [Josh] Charnley and Ryan Hall so I’ve got a lot to contend with. But if Steve McNamara wants something different I think I can offer him something a little bit different to those guys.”
Cockayne, who was top try-scorer for Wakefield last season and helped them to the Super League play-offs, will meet up with the England squad at RAF Cranwell, Lincolnshire, over the weekend of March 16 and is set to be involved in a further four camps throughout the year, including high altitude training in Potchefstroom, South Africa, when the domestic season has finished.
England’s first competitive match of the year will come against the Exiles on Friday, June 14 at the Warrington’s Halliwell Jones Stadium and McNamara’s men will also take on Richard Agar’s France in a warm-up game before the World Cup gets underway on Saturday, October 26, when England face Australia at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff.
“The players are fully aware of the importance of this year,” added McNamara. “Every opportunity we have together will be vital in honing our preparations to make a real impact on the Rugby League World Cup in the autumn.
“We have every confidence in the group, along with our Australian based players, to be competitive against the best teams in the world. We are leaving nothing to chance and our training programme will add variety and the attention to detail our elite players deserve.”
McNamara has also named Normanton’s Ben Westwood, of Warrington Wolves, in his squad and invited Bradford Bulls player John Bateman, Rhinos’ Stevie Ward and Warrington’s Ben Currie to the first camp to give the former England Academy trio the opportunity to experience training at the elite level.
England 2013 Elite Training Squad: Carl Ablett (Leeds Rhinos), Tom Briscoe (Hull FC), Rob Burrow (Leeds Rhinos), Garreth Carvell (Warrington Wolves), Josh Charnley (Wigan Warriors), Rangi Chase (Castleford Tigers), Ben Cockayne (Wakefield Trinity Wildcats), Eorl Crabtree (Huddersfield Giants), Leroy Cudjoe (Huddersfield), Gareth Ellis (Hull FC), Liam Farrell (Wigan), Ryan Hall (Leeds), Zak Hardaker (Leeds), Gareth Hock (Widnes Vikings), Chris Hill (Warrington), Jamie Jones-Buchanan (Leeds), Danny McGuire (Leeds), Michael McIlorum (Wigan), Adrian Morley (Warrington), Lee Mossop (Wigan), Richie Myler (Warrington), Sean O’Loughlin (Wigan), Stefan Ratchford (Warrington), James Roby (St Helens), Kevin Sinfield (Leeds), Danny Tickle (Hull FC), Sam Tomkins (Wigan), Kallum Watkins (Leeds), Ben Westwood (Warrington), Jon Wilkin (St Helens).