England Men Head Coach Shaun Wane has named a new-look 19-player squad for Saturday’s mid-season international against France at Warrington’s Halliwell Jones Stadium.
With only Ben Currie, Kai Pearce-Paul, Jack Welsby and captain George Williams having previously represented England in a Test Match, as many as 15 players could earn their first England caps.
Betfred Super League leaders Wigan Warriors have six players included in Wane’s squad and five of them – Ethan Havard, Toby King, Harry Smith, Morgan Smithies and Jake Wardle – could all receive their first caps. Wardle, a try-scorer for England in last season’s non-Test status international against the Combined Nations All Stars, has scored four tries in ten games this year for his new club.
Williams and Currie are joined by uncapped Warrington teammates Matty Ashton, James Harrison, Matty Nicholson, Josh Thewlis and Danny Walker. Four of the previously uncapped Wolves have impressed for the Knights in recent seasons whilst Harrison has been a standout at the Halliwell Jones Stadium since his 2022 move from Betfred Championship side Featherstone Rovers.
Also pushing for first international caps are Hull Kingston Rovers duo Jez Litten and Mikey Lewis, both of whom featured for Paul Anderson’s England Knights in wins against France and Scotland last year.
Ash Handley and Tom Holroyd are included from Leeds Rhinos, whilst Tyler Dupree’s impressive form with Salford Red Devils earns him a call-up. World Club Champions St Helens have a sole representative in the shape of full-back Jack Welsby, Super League’s Young Player of the Year for the past two seasons.
This 19 man squad came from the initial 40 man squad which saw Wane reward plenty of young players and that is something former Sky commentator Stevo praised as he also said he was pleased to see Wane push aside the tried and tested.
He said on the Eddie and Stevo podcast: “I’m pleased that Shaun Wane has decided to push aside the tried and tested and is bringing in new young talent. Okay it’s a massive squad but it’s given the opportunity to boost these young players, it’s sensational to be able to say ‘the England coach has selected me’,
“That’s a huge lift, anybody that’s coming through into the ranks and the man who is in charge of international and say ‘you’re on my list’, boy they’ll play out of their skin.”