England will take on the Kiwis in a historic one-off Test in Denver, Colorado on June 23
England head coach Wayne Bennett has named uncapped pair Jake Connor and Tommy Makinson in his team to face New Zealand in the United States, but there is no place for Luke Thompson.
England will take on the Kiwis in a historic one-off Test in Denver, Colorado, on June 23.
With Wigan half-back George Williams already ruled out with a knee injury, St Helens prop Thompson is the only fit member of Bennett’s 19-man squad to miss out.
The side to face the Kiwis at the Mile High Stadium includes 12 players who were part of the team beaten by Australia in the World Cup final in December.
On uncapped pair Connor and Makinson, Bennett said: “Their form is good in the UK and that’s half the battle – playing well at the right time of the year, and they are playing well.
“It’ll be a different contest to what they’re used to but they look like they’re well equipped to handle it.”
Scott Taylor, who featured only once at the World Cup, has been preferred ahead of Thompson after receiving a late call-up following the withdrawal of George Burgess.
“Scott’s been in the squad since I’ve been coach but he hasn’t played enough Test matches so he’s going to get an opportunity to show us what he can do this week,” said Bennett.
Bennett is excited to help showcase rugby league in Colorado.
“It’s important and the players think it’s important,” he said. “We wouldn’t have come otherwise and fought as hard as we did to get it on; certainly the clubs weren’t keen about it, most of the clubs weren’t.
“We believe it’s important and we’re all pleased to be here. There is going to be a World Cup here in 2025 so it’s important that we start to play a lot more football over here so the Americans understand what rugby league is and how it’s played.”
England’s 17-squad to face New Zealand: John Bateman, Sam Burgess, Thomas Burgess, Jake Connor, James Graham, Ryan Hall, Chris Hill, Jonny Lomax, Tommy Makinson, Jermaine McGillvary, Sean O’Loughlin (captain), Mark Percival, Stefan Ratchford, James Roby, Scott Taylor, Elliott Whitehead, Gareth Widdop.