England play new generation game

Tony Smith's young side face France tonight seeking Four Nations squad places

Tonight could mark the changing of the guard for English rugby league. After the embarrassment of last year's World Cup, most, if not all, of the revamped young side that will play France at the Stade Jean-Bouin will be at this autumn's Four Nations – provided they get the job done this evening.

In the absence of long-established players like Paul Wellens, Ade Gardner, Martin Gleeson, Keith Senior and Leon Pryce, it is time for the new generation to make their mark.

The England coach, Tony Smith, is even willing to pick out individuals. "I'm excited by the half-backs and the way they have been combining," he says of the 19-year-old Richie Myler and Danny McGuire, a veteran of 26. "If they play together anything like the way they have been training, I'll be delighted."

Smith identified the Salford scrum-half Myler as part of his plans last season, playing him in the World Cup warm-up against Wales before he made his Super League debut, although without intending to take him to Australia for the tournament. "He's a talent and I'm not surprised at the way he has developed this season," Smith said.

A player like Shaun Briscoe has had to wait a little longer for recognition at this level. Capped three times, this is the Hull KR full-back's first match as his country's first choice. "You can tell this is the top level when you're rubbing shoulders with the likes of Jamie Peacock and Adrian Morley and learning from the way they conduct themselves," Briscoe said. "It's a great honour and definitely the highlight of my career so far."

The dynamics of this squad are such that, although Briscoe is new, he is a senior player. "I was talking to Danny McGuire and it's strange," he admits, "because we're the oldest players in the backs at 26 – that's how much youth there is."

There is also a wider variety of Super League clubs represented, including Rovers and Huddersfield, who have two players apiece after having none at the World Cup. "There's a better spread of talent, which is a big tick for the salary cap," Briscoe said.

He also warns against under-estimating the French, despite the number of players they will have missing. "Thomas Bosc is no mug and Jean-Philippe Baile has been good for the Catalans all season. They will have other Catalans players around them and, although their league position isn't as good as it was last season, they will play with pride and passion."

Briscoe believes that can only be enhanced by a man he grew up watching from the terraces at Wigan. Bobbie Goulding might have been a jaw-dropping choice as France coach, but Briscoe said he has unique assets. "I remember him as a passionate player who wore his heart on his sleeve and that will transfer itself to his coaching. They will have pride in that French shirt and we have to match that." Goulding said he is unconcerned about the result, provided his players show the same commitment in the match that they have in training. As a former half-back himself, he knows that much will depend on Mickael Murcia, making his debut at the age of 28. "I've seen him three or four times and he's a very good organiser. He's got a good kicking game and he gets a team around the field well," Goulding said.

The player who really excites him, however, is the 19-year-old scrum-half on the bench, William Barthau. "He's only a baby and he hasn't played a first-grade game yet. But he's going to be something special and could be in the squad for the next 15 years."

Goulding said Smith is right to put his faith in youth and that, in players like James Roby, James Graham, Myler, Joe Westerman and Michael Shenton, England have the nucleus of a team for years ahead – and one that could beat Australia. He would just prefer that they did not show their full potential here tonight.

FRANCE: Villegas (Toulouse); Vaccaro (Catalans), Baile (Catalans), Planas (Toulouse), Duport (Catalans); Bosc (Catalans), Murcia (Limoux); Guisset (Catalans, capt), Bentley (Catalans), Casty (Catalans), Gossard (Catalans), Mounis (Catalans), Anselme (Toulouse)

Substitutes: Martins (Pia), Gagliazzo (Carcassonne), Griffi (Toulouse), Barthau (UTC)

ENGLAND: Briscoe (Hull KR); Fox (Hull KR), Shenton (Castleford), Atkins (Wakefield), Hall (Leeds); McGuire (Leeds), Myler (Salford); Morley (Warrington), Roby (St Helens), Graham (St Helens), Peacock (Leeds, capt), Hock (Wigan), Westwood (Warrington)

Substitutes: Burgess (Bradford), Crabtree (Huddersfield), Moore (Huddersfield), Clubb (Harlequins)

Referee: J.Maxwell (Australia)

News
Howard Marks who has been diagnosed with inoperable cancer aged 69
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
Rowan Atkinson at the wheel of his McLaren F1 GTR sports car
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us