Rugby League World Cup 2017: Barrow's St Helens star Knowles earns Wales call-up
MORGAN Knowles is among the 24 players who have made the final cut for the Wales squad for the upcoming Rugby League World Cup.
The Barrow-born loose forward, who plays for Super League side St Helens, had been one of the 38 named in the initial train-on squad by Wales head coach John Kear earlier this year.
However, Knowles has now secured his place in the squad for the tournament following an impressive year in a Saints shirt.
Former Barrow Raiders players Dalton Grant and Joe Burke – now with London Broncos and Oldham respectively – are also in the squad for the tournament in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
“I’m really happy with the squad that I’ve got for the tournament,” said Kear. “We’ve had withdrawals – some because of injury and some for personal reasons – but the lads who are going are showing a great deal of desire to represent their country.
“I’m pretty certain that they will perform at this World Cup on the biggest stage. It’s a great opportunity.”
Wales fly out to their training camp in Brisbane a week today and open the tournament with a tough game against co-hosts Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby on October 28.
They then face Fiji in an inter-group match in Townsville on November 5, followed by concluding Group C against Ireland – who have Knowles' fellow Barrovian Brad Singleton in their squad – one week later.
And Kear is optimistic the team end their winless record in the final stages of tournament, which stretches back to when they reached the semi-finals in 2000.
“We’ve not won a World Cup match since 2000,” said Kear. “We didn’t qualify for the 2008 World Cup and we didn’t win in 2013.
“It’s a long time between World Cup wins, but we’re unbeaten in six matches and the main goal is to get that first win. There’s then nothing to say that we can’t get out of the group and make the quarter-finals.”
Wales squad: Courtney Davies, Steve Parry (both Gloucestershire All Golds), Chester Butler (Halifax), Danny Ansell (Hunslet), Sam Hopkins (Leigh Centurions), Michael Channing, Ben Evans, Dalton Grant, Elliot Kear, Rhys Williams (all London Broncos), Matty Barron (Newcastle Thunder), Joe Burke (Oldham), Gavin Bennion (Rochdale Hornets), Craig Kopczak (Salford Red Devils), Matty Fozard (Sheffield Eagles), Andrew Gay, Christiaan Roets (both South Wales Ironmen), Regan Grace, Morgan Knowles, Ben Morris (all St Helens), Rhodri Lloyd (Swinton Lions), Josh Ralph (Tweed Head Seagulls), Phil Joseph (Workington Town), Matty Seamark (Wynnum Manly Seagulls).