Wayne Bennett has named is first England 19-man squad for this Saturday’s international Test against France in Avignon at Parc des Sports (6.30pm CET).
Bennett has added six uncapped players including St Helens duo Mark Percival and Jonny Lomax. Half-back Luke Gale, who toured with England last year during the International Series against New Zealand, could also be in line to make his international debut. Hull FC forward Scott Taylor, Warrington’s Stefan Ratchford and recent addition Stevie Ward from Leeds Rhinos have also been added.
In the absence of newly-appointed England captain Sam Burgess while he serves a one-match ban which was imposed on him after his final game of the NRL season with South Sydney Rabbitohs, James Graham will lead the team in Avignon – a job he last did in 2010 when he became one of the country’s youngest ever captains.
England head coach Wayne Bennett said: “The players have trained well all week and are looking forward to the trip to France.
“There’s plenty of competition for places in this squad and it’s good to see a few new faces in there possibly having a run out in Avignon.
“The week leading into this game has been good and the training facilities in London at the Honourable Artillery Company have been outstanding.
“France are a passionate team and will have plenty of support behind them in Avignon. There’s talent in their side and some Super League experience so we know what to expect on Saturday. As the away side, it’s the kind of environment that I want my side to be challenged in this international Test.”
England 19-man squad (professional club and community club in brackets):
Kevin Brown (Widnes Vikings, Thatto Heath Crusaders)
George Burgess (South Sydney Rabbitohs, Dewsbury Moor)
Thomas Burgess (South Sydney Rabbitohs, Dewsbury Moor)
Daryl Clark (Warrington Wolves, Fryston Warriors)
Mike Cooper (Warrington Wolves/St George-Illwarra Dragons, Latchford Albion)
Liam Farrell (Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Patricks)
Luke Gale (Castleford Tigers, Middleton Marauders)
James Graham (Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs, Blackbrook)
Ryan Hall (Leeds Rhinos, Oulton Raiders)
Josh Hodgson (Canberra Raiders, East Hull)
Jonny Lomax (St Helens, Orrell St James)
Jermaine McGillvary (Huddersfield Giants, Deighton Juniors)
Mark Percival (St Helens, Halton Farnworth Hornets)
Stefan Ratchford (Warrington Wolves, Wigan St Patricks)
Scott Taylor (Hull FC, Skirlaugh)
Stevie Ward (Leeds Rhinos, Churwell Chiefs)
Kallum Watkins (Leeds Rhinos, Latchford Albion)
Elliott Whitehead (Canberra Raiders, West Bowling)
Gareth Widdop (St George Illawarra Dragons, King Cross)
The game against France will be broadcast live in UK from 5.20pm on the BBC Red Button and BBC Sport website allowing fans get a first glimpse of Wayne Bennett’s England team in action.
The 2016 Ladbrokes Four Nations featuring England, Australia, New Zealand and Scotland starts on Friday, October 28 and more than 50 per cent of tickets are priced at £25 or less. Buy tickets at rugb-league.com/tickets or call the Rugby League Ticket Hotline on 0844 856 1113 (calls to this number will cost 7p per minute plus your phone company’s access charge.)
Full 2016 Ladbrokes Four Nations schedule is as follows:
Friday October 28 (8.00pm): Australia v Scotland, Lightstream Stadium, Hull
Saturday October 29 (2.30pm): (General admission sold out) England v New Zealand, The John Smith’s Stadium, Huddersfield
Saturday November 5 (5.30pm): England v Scotland, Ricoh Arena, Coventry
Saturday November 5 (8.00pm): New Zealand v Australia, Ricoh Arena, Coventry
Friday November 11 (8.00pm): New Zealand v Scotland, The Zebra Claims Stadium, Workington
Sunday November 13 (2.00pm): England v Australia, The London Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London
Sunday November 20 (2.30pm): Final, Anfield, Liverpool