Warrington Wolves' Blake Austin named in England elite performance squad
By Sky Sports Rugby League
Last Updated: 15/07/19 2:56pm
Australian-born stand-off Blake Austin has been added to the England elite performance squad for the rest of 2019.
The former Canberra Raiders player has made a big impact for Warrington Wolves during his first Super League season and currently leads the Man of Steel standings.
Austin qualifies to represent England through his maternal grandmother and has been linked with a call-up to Wayne Bennett's squad for Great Britain's tour to the Southern Hemisphere in the winter.
RFL rugby director Kevin Sinfield, who heads up the England performance unit, is delighted the 28-year-old has decided to commit himself to the national team.
"Blake Austin is a quality player, but just as important is his commitment to joining our England squad," Sinfield said.
"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.
"Blake Austin is a quality player, but just as important is his commitment to joining our England squad."
"That is a good indication of his commitment to joining our group, and we believe he will be a very positive addition."
Austin will meet up with the rest of the elite performance squad next month, with the short-term focus being the Downer World Cup Nines in Sydney in October.
He is the only new face included in the 27-man squad, although four players from the initial group which was named in March have dropped out.
Kallum Watkins is no longer included following his move to NRL side Gold Coast Titans as the squad is only for Super League-based players, while Joe Greenwood and Robbie Mulhern have dropped down to the England Knights performance squad. Adam Milner is not included either.
A large number of the England group are likely to be involved in head coach Bennett's Great Britain performance squad, which is due to be named in September ahead of the Tests against New Zealand, Tonga and Papua New Guinea this winter.
"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," Sinfield said.
"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's elite performance squad
Luke Gale, Jake Trueman, Liam Watts (all Castleford Tigers), Sam Tomkins (Catalans Dragons), Jermaine McGillvary (Huddersfield Giants), Jake Connor, Jamie Shaul, Scott Taylor (all Hull FC), Stevie Ward (Leeds Rhinos), Jonny Lomax, Tommy Makinson, Mark Percival, James Roby, Luke Thompson, Alex Walmsley (all St Helens), Tom Johnstone, Reece Lyne (both Wakefield Trinity), Blake Austin, Josh Charnley, Daryl Clark, Ben Currie, Chris Hill, Jack Hughes, Stefan Ratchford (all Warrington Wolves), Oliver Gildart, Sean O'Loughlin, George Williams (all Wigan Warriors)