Photo by Ed Sykes/SWpix.com
England host world champions France in a two-Test wheelchair series at Medway Park, Gillingham this week to round off the year’s international rugby league fixtures.
The games will take place on Wednesday 10th November (kick off 6.30pm) and Saturday 13th November (kick off 4pm) the latter for the Kielty-Fassolette trophy named after the founders of wheelchair game, with both encounters broadcast via the BBC iPlayer and BBC Sport website. England Knights and France Espoirs will also face each other on Friday 12th November behind closed doors to ensure that both squads can give maximum game time to those selected as part of their respective World Cup preparations.
England have recalled Wigan Warriors’ Martin Norris after a seven-year absence and hand a debut to Freya Levy of The Argonauts, both players having performed strongly during the domestic season as their sides made the finals. Levy is no stranger to international sport having represented England at both Wheelchair Basketball and Para Ice Hockey and links up with club mates Joe Coyd, Lewis King and Fred Nye.
— Fédération Française de Rugby XIII (@FFRXIII) November 8, 2021
“It’s an honour to be putting on an England shirt for rugby league and I hope it’s the start of many more,” Levy said. “The staff and squad have made me feel incredibly welcome and at home. I’m excited for what the future holds with this team, especially with the World Cup next year. The delay has enabled us to train harder and smarter to be in the best possible position to win the trophy.”
England Head Coach Tom Coyd added: “We have selected the best domestic English players for the toughest matches we have played since 2019. Our preparation has been excellent and we’re excited to measure ourselves against the best in the world.”
The French are looking forward to resuming their preparation for defending their World Champions title and number one ranking after their domestic wheelchair competitions being on hold for 18 months due to coronavirus. They will be without the experience of Mostefa Abassi and Kevin Pastor, who were integral to France’s 2017 World Cup victory, whilst Jonathan Hivernat will also be missing following his recent appearance in the Paralympic Games. Debuts will be handed to Julien Verdi, Florian Guttardoro, Adrien Zittel and Thomas Duhalde.
France co-head coach Sylvain Crismanovich stressed that the lack of competition may leave the French team underprepared but he is nonetheless confident: “We are travelling with 13 players from our performance group of 18 and they have had very disparate levels of preparation compared to England, who have just finished their domestic season,” he noted. “We haven’t been able to train regularly in the last two years, but on paper we have a good group of players. These games will allow us to see our new players at this level and give valuable experience, and allow us to evaluate our performances ahead of the World Cup.”
Joe Coyd, Lewis King, Fred Nye, Freya Levy (Argonauts), James Simpson, Nathan Collins, Tom Halliwell (C) (Leeds Rhinos), Seb Bechara (Catalans Dragons), Adam Rigby, Declan Roberts, Martin Norris (Wigan Warriors), Rob Hawkins, Nathan Mulhall (Halifax)
Florian Guttardoro, Guillaume Mautz, Yann Verdi (Avignon), Adrien Zittel (Arbent), Jérémy Bourson, Gulles Clausells (C), Nicolas Clausells, Arno Vargas (Catalans Dragons), Max Cabanne, Thomas Duhalde, Julien Penella (Euskadi), Lionel Alazard, Dany Denuwelaere (Montuaban)