England have named their 10-man team for next Saturday’s Wheelchair Rugby League International against Wales in Sheffield – when the players will be using new Rugby League Elite Wheelchairs manufactured by the sports wheelchair specialists RGK for the first time in competition as they continue preparations for this autumn’s World Cup.
Adam Rigby of Leyland Warriors, Josh Butler of Leeds Rhinos and Rob Hawkins of the Halifax Panthers, the reigning Young Wheelchair Rugby League Player of the Year, are the three inclusions who were not involved in England’s successful tour of Australia in late 2019.
Butler is one of four Rhinos players in the squad, alongside Nathan Collins, Tom Halliwell and James Simpson, and Hawkins is joined by his Panthers team-mate Wayne Boardman.
The Kent-based Argonauts are represented by Joe Coyd and Lewis King, and the team is completed by Sebastien Bechara, who was born in Nottingham and now plays in France for the Catalans Dragons.
Tom Coyd, the England Head Coach, said: “Our season and preparation is building nicely. The whole of the National Performance Squad put in a huge personal effort over the pandemic period and improved in every dimension. Since we came back to training together in March this year, we have made big improvements every time we get together at practice.
“Team selection was a real challenge. Our game is evolving and we are testing ourselves, pushing the boundaries of how the game has been played and evolving the sport. Players have to be flexible and be able to fit into the playing style.
“Wales will give us a great challenge and enable us to measure progress. Each player who has made selection is there on merit and will get a crack in an International Test Match.”
The players in England’s squad were measured for their bespoke chairs by RGK during recent training camps, and Martin Coyd, the General Manager of England Wheelchair RL, is excited by the impact they may have on performance.
“The build-up to the 2021 Rugby League World Cup gives us a wonderful opportunity to test, push and improve everything we do in the game,” he said. “We have built the best possible Coaching and Support Team to give the players the opportunity to be at their best. Great coaching, analysis, medicine, nutrition, sports science, psychology and wellbeing are all playing a big role in incremental improvements across the board.
“We have created partnerships with a fantastic group of sponsors which has enabled us to source a state of the art, made to measure, ergonomic Wheelchair for each player in the RLWC Team.
“RGK make the best wheelchairs in the world and they have developed a Rugby League specific Chair. We believe that this will raise our levels even further and enable the players to feel the benefit of their hard work on and off the field. We are determined to be at our very best come November.”
Dorian Benjamin, the Sales & Marketing Manager at RGK Wheelchairs, said: “Everyone at RGK is absolutely thrilled to be a part of England’s journey to the Rugby League World Cup.
“Over the past year, we have developed a fantastic relationship with the whole national team plus management staff. As a company who is heavily involved with world class level sport, we are very privileged to supply the entire team with our Rugby League Elite Wheelchairs and cannot wait to support their journey to and beyond the World Cup.”
The England squad will use the chairs in a training session this weekend at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield, the venue for next weekend’s international, and for several fixtures in the Rugby League World Cup.
Sebastien Bechara – Catalans Dragons
Wayne Boardman – Halifax Panthers
Josh Butler – Leeds Rhinos
Nathan Collins – Leeds Rhinos
Joe Coyd – Argonauts
Tom Halliwell – Leeds Rhinos
Rob Hawkins – Halifax Panthers
Lewis King – Argonauts
Adam Rigby – Leyland Warriors
James Simpson – Leeds Rhinos