Rival hookers Josh Hodgson and Danny Houghton in battle to claim World Cup spot
ENGLAND coach Steve McNamara has challenged the city's two hookers to build on their recent successes and push their way into his thinking for this year's World Cup.
McNamara says both Hull FC's Danny Houghton and Hull KR's Josh Hodgson have put themselves firmly in contention to feature in the sport's showpiece occasion this Autumn.
And with the new Super League season kicking off tomorrow, they have both been told a stand-out season could earn them a place.
Both Houghton and Hodgson have made their England ambitions clear in recent weeks.
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And asked about the duo's chances, McNamara told the Mail: "I wouldn't disagree with either being talked about.
"I think Josh and Danny have very strong claims to be in the squad.
"They are sightly different players and I have a tremendous amount of time for both of them.
"They are two players I expect to be really pushing hard."
Hodgson was forced to pull out of last Autumn's England Knights games with a foot injury, a series that saw Houghton handed the captaincy of the national side's second string.
Fans of both Hull clubs have called for their hookers to be given a chance in the senior side, with particular outcry from the FC faithful, who feel Houghton's omission from the triangular series with Wales and France was particularly harsh given his stellar year for the Black and Whites.
With St Helens' talismanic hooker James Roby nailed down for a place in the squad, Houghton and Hodgson face competition from the likes of Leeds' Rob Burrow, Wigan's Michael McIllorum and Catalan Dragons' Ian Henderson.
"The good thing for me is the level of competition in that position," added McNamara.
"Josh and Danny have been part of our England Knights programme but now they are getting to the point where they want to push beyond that and get in our senior group."
McNamara will be at Headingley tomorrow and MS3 Craven Park on Sunday to see both Houghton and Hodgson in action as the Super League season gets under way.
Ahead of the new campaign, England's Elite Training Squad and England Knights group got together yesterday for the first of a series of meetings throughout the season.
The new ETS squad for the 2013 season will be named on Monday, March 4, with the first three-day camp of the year starting on March 16.
Both Houghton and Hodgson will be eager to be named in that ETS squad, which will then face the Exiles at The Halliwell Jones Stadium in Warrington on June 14.
Eager to not close the door on any players, McNamara says regardless of his first ETS squad announcement, there will always be scope for someone to come through, as Wolves' Chris Hill did last season.
"Without a doubt someone like Chris Hill coming through last year reawakened everybody and it keeps me alert to other people coming through," said McNamara.
"When you look at the juniors like John Bateman, Ben Currie and Stevie Ward, three under-18s who are stand-outs in their age group, who knows if one or two of those won't come through?
"There is a lot to play for."