Steve McNamara has named three debutants in England's team to play France tomorrow. The Melbourne full-back, Gareth Widdop, and Huddersfield's stand-off, Kevin Brown, are both in the starting line-up at Leigh, whilst Joel Tomkins, the Wigan second-rower, is on the bench.
As the only full-back in the squad, Widdop was always earmarked to play, despite starting only two matches for his Australian club. "He has been very much as I expected in camp," said McNamara of the player he has gone out on a limb to include. "He's very composed, very confident and very, very skilful. He has to go out there and play, but the signs are good."
Brown gets his opportunity because of injuries to Kyle Eastmond and Danny McGuire. "He's been given a chance he probably never thought he was going to get, but him and Sam Tomkins have looked good together in training," McNamara said.
Sam and Joel Tomkins will become the first pair of brothers to play for their country together since Paul and David Hulme in 1989 and Joel can expect to be thrown into the action early. His inclusion means that the Bradford prop, Nick Scruton, is the man to miss out. "His progress has been very good. He now needs to go away and carry on improving," said McNamara of the one member of the squad he also coaches at club level.
The French coach, Bobbie Goulding, admitted that the Test had come at a bad time for his side. Injuries – with Dimitri Pelo the latest to drop out – meant that he was able to name his starting 13 but not his substitutes yesterday.
The newcomer with the biggest job is the Lezignan scrum-half, Nicolas Munoz, who plays in the absence of Thomas Bosc. "He was instrumental in Lezignan winning everything this season," Goulding said. "There are a lot of people in France who could step up to the next level and he is one of them."
England G Widdop (Melbourne Storm); T Briscoe (Hull), C Bridge (Warrington), M Shenton (Castleford), R Hall (Leeds); K Brown (Huddersfield), S Tomkins (Wigan); J Graham (St Helens), K Sinfield (Leeds), J Peacock (Leeds, capt), G Ellis (Wests Tigers), S Burgess (South Sydney), S O'Loughlin (Wigan).
France C Villegas (Toulouse); N Piquemal (Lezignan), C Gossard, S Raguin, F Vaccari; T Gigot (all Catalans), N Munoz (Lezignan), D Ferriol, G Mounis, R Casty, O Elima (capt), J Fakir, A Bentley (all Catalans).Reuse content