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15th July 2019, 13:57 | englandrl
Warrington stand-off Blake Austin will be the only fresh face in a revised England Elite Performance Squad that has been selected for the rest of 2019.
Austin, a 28-year-old who was born in Sydney, qualifies for England through his maternal grandmother, and is leading the voting for the Steve Prescott Man of Steel Award in his first season in the Betfred Super League after joining the Wolves from Canberra Raiders.
The EPS will meet for the third time this year in early August, maintaining the focus on the 2021 Rugby League World Cup with a shorter-term goal of England's participation in the Downer World Cup Nines in Sydney in October, before a Great Britain Performance Squad is selected in September.
Austin is one of seven Warrington players included in the 27-man squad, with six from the Super League leaders St Helens, three each from Castleford Tigers, Hull FC and Wigan Warriors, two from Wakefield Trinity, and one each from Catalans Dragons, Huddersfield Giants and Leeds Rhinos.
Four players have dropped out from the first EPS of 2019 that was announced in March: Kallum Watkins, as a result of his move from Leeds to the Gold Coast Titans, because the EPS does not include players from the NRL; Joe Greenwood and Robbie Mulhern, who have dropped down to the Knights Performance Squad that was announced earlier today; and Castleford's Adam Milner.
Kevin Sinfield, the RFL's Rugby Director who leads the England Performance Unit, said: “Blake Austin is a quality player but just as important is his commitment to joining our England squad.
“Unlike a few other guys who would qualify to play for Great Britain later this year through their ancestry from other Home Nations, he would make himself unavailable to play any representative rugby in Australia as soon as he plays for England, because England are a Tier One nation.
"That is a good indication of his commitment to joining our group, and we believe he will be a very positive addition.
"It is a bit different this year with a Great Britain squad to be selected at the end of the season for the Rugby League Lions tour, but there is still a focus on England with the Nines, and after all the progress we've made since setting up the England Performance Unit after the last World Cup in 2017, it was important that we maintained that continuity through 2019 as we continue to work towards hosting RLWC 2021."
England Rugby League Elite Performance Squad (all players listed with professional and community club)