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Bennett names new-look England line-up

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 20/10/2016 Ian Laybourn

Wayne Bennett © AAP Image/Dean Lewins Wayne Bennett 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 Saturday next week.

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 to 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."

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 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.

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