EXILES coach Brian McClennan has named Saints winger Francis Meli as his eighth selection for the Exiles squad and has added Hull FC’s Willie Manu to replace injured David Fa’alogo of Huddersfield Giants.
The Exiles squad comprises of the best Australian and New Zealand players currently in the Engage Super League and both Meli and Manu join the 22-man squad that will take on England in the International Origin Match at Headingley Carnegie on Friday June 10 (8.00pm).
“I am delighted to announce St Helens winger Francis Meli as my latest pick,” said McClennan. “Francis will add depth to the three-quarters and will give us options in this area. He is capable of playing in the centres as well as being one of the most devastating finishers out wide in the Engage Super League.
“I am also bringing in Hull FC’s Willie Manu, who will replace Huddersfield’s David Fa’alogo through injury. Willie’s selection does come out of left field with the fact that he wasn’t involved in the initial 34-man squad. I like is versatility and he is playing well at the moment.
“I said all along that players could force themselves into recognition and this is a perfect example of what can be achieved when things are going well. Willie is strong and will give us a new dimension on the fringes. He is a dynamic runner, who has the ability to offload and bust the defensive line.
“I have a further two picks to make next week and it will be very interesting to see which players will step up to the plate in the next seven days. The hardest decision I’m going to have make is which players I leave out in my final 18. I’ve been having sleepless nights thinking about it, but come next week, when I arrive in England, I’ll have a clear picture of the players that will go into battle against England.”
Hull FC second row Willie Manu was announced in the England Elite Training Squad last year but missed out on final selection, he is now looking forward to taking on England as part of the Exiles squad.
“I can’t wait to get involved in the match and be part of the Exiles squad,” said Manu.
“Even though I was part of the England training camp 12 months ago, my efforts are now firmly fixed on representing the Exiles and hopefully I will be part of the coach’s final 18. I have point to prove to Steve McNamara that I can play at this level and if I get the chance I know I can perform and stand out against the England players.
“Both teams will be looking to get into each other and make a real impact. England need to impress with the Four Nations only a few months away and we will be playing with pride and honour as we represent our respective nation in a collective team environment.
“I’m really enjoying my footy at the moment and this match has probably come at the right time for me. I think we will give England a good test and the match will be good for both teams. I am looking forward to having the opportunity to test myself against the best English players.”
New Zealand and Samoan international Francis Meli, also selected by McClennan, is looking forward to joining the Exiles squad and getting into camp with the rest of the players.
“It is a massive honour to play against England and join the Exiles squad,” said Meli. “I am looking forward to teaming up with Exiles selections who I am used to playing against and representing a mixed New Zealand and Australian side over here. This is what big games are all about, coming together with different players and uniting as one.
“There are so many talented players in the squad that any could make the team, but I am honoured to be selected and to have been a part of the whole concept.
“I am excited to have the opportunity to face some of the St Helens players in the England team; it is easy to play with them so the challenge of playing against them will be interesting.”
In a unique concept to British sport, the final Exiles 22-man squad was chosen in part by the public. The fans have chosen 13 of the 22 squad members to face England and the remaining nine selections will be made by the Exiles coach, Brian McClennan, and his assistant Terry Matterson. The Exiles coaching staff have two more selections to make for the final 22-man squad, one is a replacement for a injured squad member.
Pre-purchased tickets for the International Origin Match start from £19 for adults and £12 concessions and are available at www.rugbyleaguetickets.co.uk or by contacting the RFL Ticket Office on 0844 856 1113. Tickets purchased on the day of the match start from £22 for adults and £15 for concessions.
Danny Buderus (captain) (Leeds Rhinos & Australia), Thomas Leuluai (vice captain, Wigan Warriors & New Zealand), Louis Anderson (Warrington Wolves & New Zealand), George Carmont (Wigan Warriors & New Zealand), Rangi Chase (Castleford Tigers & New Zealand), David Faiumu (Huddersfield Giants & New Zealand), Craig Fitzgibbon (Hull FC & Australia), Brett Hodgson (Warrington Wolves & Australia), Matt King (Warrington Wolves & Australia), Kylie Leuluai (Leeds Rhinos & New Zealand), Willie Manu (Hull FC & Tonga), Francis Meli (St Helens & New Zealand), Steve Menzies (Catalan Dragons & Australia), Joel Monaghan (Warrington Wolves & Australia), Michael Monaghan (Warrington Wolves & Australia), Mark O’Meley (Hull FC & Australia), Tony Puletua (St Helens & New Zealand), Pat Richards (Wigan Warriors & Australia), Iosia Soliola (St Helens & New Zealand), Brent Webb (Leeds Rhinos & New Zealand).