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Herbie Farnworth relishing chance to play in front of family at World Cup

Herbie Farnworth is looking forward to playing on home soil (PA Images/Nick Potts)
Herbie Farnworth is looking forward to playing on home soil (PA Images/Nick Potts)

Herbie Farnworth will relish the opportunity to play in front of his parents for the first time since leaving school after being named in England coach Shaun Wane’s 24-man World Cup squad.

Farnworth, 22, was born in the tiny Lancashire village of Blacko and played amateur rugby league for Wigan St Patrick’s before moving to Australia and joining Brisbane Broncos.

His sensational early-season form for the Broncos caught Wane’s eye but he was dropped from his squad after failing to meet the coach’s high off-field standards and had to make his case for a World Cup spot.

“A couple of things dropped off, things like communication, and I had to prove I still wanted to be part of the team,” Farnworth told a press conference at Worsley where Wane unveiled his squad.

“To be named in the squad is an absolute dream. I’ve not played since round 12 but my eyes have been on the World Cup and I’ve been speaking to Waney quite a lot through the year and telling how much it means to me.

“It feels kind of weird that it’s here now but I can’t wait to play on English soil again.

“I’ve not played in front of my family for a long, long time, I think I was about 16 or 17 the last time, so that will be pretty cool.”

England squad announcement and press conference – Worsley Park Marriott Hotel and Country Club
England head coach Shaun Wane has no concern about the fitness of Herbie Farnworth (Nick Potts/PA)

Farnworth, an all-round sportsman who was once on the books of Manchester United, has not played since damaging his bicep in June but will face Fiji in next Friday’s warm-up match in Salford and Wane has no concern over his fitness.

“It was an upper-body injury so he could run and he’s fit,” said Wane. “He’s dedicated and I know he’s been working really hard.

“My medical team has been speaking to the Brisbane medical so I have no concerns at all.”

Sydney Roosters loose forward Victor Radley and Newcastle Knights winger Dom Young are Wane’s other fresh faces from the NRL and both are also set to get some match practice against Fiji.

Young, who began his professional career at Huddersfield, switched his allegiance from Jamaica while Radley had been in line to play for New South Wales and Australia before opting to honour his father, who was born in Sheffield.

“He WhatsApp-ed me to put his name forward and then rang me which makes a difference,” Wane said of his initial contact with Radley.

“He was very emotional. The conversation was really one-sided, about his desire to play for England.

“He’s very committed and proud of where his dad is from.

“He’s also a good player, tough and his main attribute is that he competes for everything.”

St Helens v Salford Red Devils – Betfred Super League – Semi-Final – Totally Wicked Stadium
Shaun Wane says the kicking game of Marc Sneyd could be crucial in the World Cup (Will Matthews/PA)

Tom Burgess (South Sydney), Elliott Whitehead (Canberra) and Luke Thompson (Canterbury Bulldogs) are England’s other NRL-based players while Wigan centre or second rower Kai Pearce-Paul and the Salford pair Marc Sneyd and Andy Ackers are the other new faces.

Huddersfield’s veteran prop Chris Hill, at 34 the oldest member of the squad, earns a recall in the absence of the injured Alex Walmsley while Sneyd is a replacement for Jonny Lomax, who became the latest player to withdraw.

While disappointed with losing Lomax, Wane says Sneyd, along with Ackers, earned his call-up on the back of his impressive form with Salford.

“I’ve got a really strong group of men,” he said. “The squad has a good blend with an average age of 28, which puts us in good stead.

“Andy Ackers is tough, he’s a Wiganer. He’s a form player and I’ve said all year I’d pick what’s best at the end.

“Marc is a great kid and we had a fantastic conversation when I told him he was in. He was very emotional.

Salford hooker Andy Ackers is one of six new faces in the England squad
Salford hooker Andy Ackers is one of six new faces in the England squad (Martin Rickett/PA)

“He’s got probably the best kicking game in the competition and we’re playing in October and November when it’s going to be wet.

“He can turn a bad yardage set into a good yardage set. He’s a smart operator who knows how to win games.”

Wane has a back-up squad of players who will continue to train but says he is very close to knowing his team for the opening game against Samoa at Newcastle’s St James’ Park on October 15.

England World Cup squad: S Tomkins (Catalans, capt), A Ackers (Salford), J Batchelor, (St Helens), J Bateman (Wigan), T Burgess (South Sydney), M Cooper (Wigan), H Farnworth (Brisbane), R Hall (Hull KR), C Hill (Huddersfield), M Knowles (St Helens), M Lees (St Helens), T Makinson (St Helens), M McIlorum (Catalans), M McMeeken (Catalans), M Oledzki (Leeds), K Pearce-Paul (Wigan), V Radley (Sydney Roosters), M Sneyd (Salford), L Thompson (Canterbury Bulldogs), K Watkins (Salford), J Welsby (St Helens), E Whitehead (Canberra), G Williams (Warrington), D Young (Newcastle).