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Bennett names new-look England line-up

Press AssociationPress Association 20/10/2016 Ian Laybourn

England coach Wayne Bennett has named five uncapped players in a 19-man squad for his first match in charge against France in Avignon on Saturday.

St Helens duo Mark Percival and Jonny Lomax, Castleford halfback Luke Gale, Hull prop Scott Taylor and Stevie Ward, from Leeds will make their debuts in a final hit-out before the team's Four Nations opener against New Zealand on October 29.

Another uncapped player, Warrington's versatile Stefan Ratchford, has also been included in a 19-man squad but is not guaranteed to play with Bennett keen to rest the seven-strong contingent involved in the Super League Grand Final.

Bennett's priority is provide those members of his 24-man squad whose club commitments finished several weeks ago some much-needed game time.

"A bit of match fitness for the boys who haven't played for about five weeks, that will be the main thrust of Saturday night," Bennett said.

"The guys from Warrington and Wigan probably won't play. Everyone else needs the games. They have had more games than probably everyone else, so another week won't hurt them being out.

"I will sit one of them on the bench but will probably not play him if I don't have to.

"We need the game and a bit of contact but after that I won't worry about anything."

Gale, who was a member of Steve McNamara's England squad last year but did not get to play, looks certain to partner Gareth Widdop in the halves while Lomax will have a chance to stake a claim for the fullback berth which is up for grabs due to an injury to Sam Tomkins.

In the absence of newly-appointed captain Sam Burgess while he serves a one-match ban carried over from the NRL season, former St Helens co-captain James Graham will lead the team, a job he first carried out in 2010 when he became one of the country's youngest-ever captains.

England have spent the week in London and will fly to France and back on the day before moving their training camp to Leeds to prepare for their Four Nations opener against New Zealand at Huddersfield.

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."

Squad : Kevin Brown, George Burgess, Tom Burgess, Daryl Clark, Matt Cooper, Liam Farrell, Luke Gale, James Graham, Ryan Hall, Josh Hodgson, Jonny Lomax, Jermain McGillvary, Mark Percival, Stefan Ratchford, Scott Taylor, Stevie Ward, Kallum Watkins, Elliott Whitehead, Gareth Widdop.

ends

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