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Page last updated at 12:17 GMT, Friday, 11 June 2010 13:17 UK

Storm's Gareth Widdop starts for England against France

Gillette Fusion International: England v France
Venue: Leigh Sports Village Date: Saturday, 12 June Kick-off: 1715 BST
Coverage: Live coverage on Sky Sports 1; score updates on BBC Radio 5 Live & the BBC Sport website, highlights on the Super League Show

Gareth Widdop
Halifax-born Widdop emigrated to Australia four years ago

Melbourne Storm full-back Gareth Widdop has been handed his first start for England in Saturday's match against France at Leigh.

There are also debuts for Huddersfield's Kevin Brown, who will play at half-back, and Wigan's Joel Tomkins, who will start on the bench.

Jamie Peacock will captain the side for Steve McNamara's first game in charge.

Tomkins and brother Sam are the first siblings to play for their country since Paul and David Hulme in 1989.

The match is England's only home game before the Four Nations in autumn.

Brown will start alongside Sam Tomkins after Leeds' Danny McGuire was ruled out because of a knee injury.

Fellow half-backs Kyle Eastmond, Richie Myler and Rob Burrow are also all absent because of injury.

But Kevin Sinfield is fit to start after recovering from a knee injury and James Roby is fit to take a place on the bench after suffering concussion.

Peacock, who will win his 16th cap on Saturday, says he is excited by the mixture of youth and experience in the England squad.

"I think Steve has picked the best team and we'll look to progress on what we did in the Four Nations," he said.

"The great thing about playing internationals is that you get the chance to play with some players you respect as opponents.

"It's exciting and it's always enjoyable being in camp, being around some different players.

"I've been really impressed with how Joel Tomkins has played this year and to get to play alongside him is fantastic."

Peacock admits to knowing little about Widdop, the Halifax-born full-back who has been restricted to just two senior appearances for the Storm due to the presence of Australian international Billy Slater, but likes what he has seen so far in training.

"He's been great," said the skipper. "You can see why he's so highly rated in Australia. I think if he had been with any other club he would have been starting.

"He's skilful and adds something to the team. I think he'll do very well on Saturday."

Wigan loose forward Sean O'Loughlin warned his team-mates must not underestimate France, who have named 11 players from Super League club Catalans Dragons.

"There are quite a few names in the squad that we don't know a lot about," said O'Loughlin.

"So it's a little bit going into the unknown but I'm sure if we prepare well, put a lot of effort into the game, we can look after ourselves.

"France have had some good results over the past few years and I think that's been down to how professional they've taken the games.


"The amount of effort and preparation they put into the games, we definitely won't be underestimating them."

France captain Olivier Elima said his side will be striving to avoid a repeat of their 62-12 hammering against England in Paris last year.

"Last year was pretty bad and we're definitely not looking at letting the score get anything close to that," he said.

"We're definitely looking to compete with England. We'll be trying to get on top but it's going to be hard."

Former England coach Tony Smith has warned France's performances must improve if the annual fixture is to survive.

It is 29 years since France last beat England, and Smith said: " "I am worried about this game.

"Only time will tell but, if it happened to be like last year's result - and it very well could be - I think it's the end of it.

"I don't know how much good it's doing England to play an opponent like that mid-year and I don't know how much good it's doing the French to get a shellacking like that."

Smith suggested a match against an overseas XIII drawn from Super League-based Australians and New Zealanders would provide a more worthwhile mid-season test.

England team to play France:
Widdop (Melbourne Storm), Briscoe (Hull FC), Bridge (Warrington), Shenton (Castleford), Hall (Leeds), Brown (Huddersfield), S Tomkins (Wigan), Graham (St Helens), Sinfield (Leeds), Peacock (capt, Leeds), Ellis (West Tigers), Burgess (South Sydney), O'Loughlin (Wigan). Replacements: Roby (St Helens), Morley (Warrington), Westwood (Warrington), J Tomkins (Wigan). 18th man: Scruton (Bradford).

France squad to play England:
Barthau (UTC), Bentley (UTC), Casty (Catalans Dragons), Elima (Catalans Dragons), Fakir (Catalans Dragons), Ferriol (Catalans Dragons), Gigot (Catalans Dragons), Gossard (Catalans Dragons), Griffi (Toulouse Olympique), Mounis (Catalans Dragons), Monuz (Lezignan), Piquemal (Lezignan), Quintilla (Lezignan), Raguin (Catalans Dragons), Simon (Catalans Dragons), Tisseyre (Toulouse Olympique), Touxagas (Catalans Dragons), Vaccari (Catalans Dragons), Villegas (Toulouse Olympique)

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see also
France hit by withdrawal of Bosc
07 Jun 10 |  Rugby League
Bradford 6-52 Huddersfield
06 Jun 10 |  My Club
Leeds 28-22 Wakefield
04 Jun 10 |  My Club
Lowes joins England coaching team
04 Jun 10 |  Rugby League
Widdop called into England squad
01 Jun 10 |  Rugby League
Burgess freed for England match
19 May 10 |  Rugby League
Hickmans joins new England set-up
24 May 10 |  Rugby League
McNamara lands England coach post
21 Apr 10 |  Rugby League
Coaches insist England are united
17 Nov 09 |  English
RFL confirm full-time coach role
30 Nov 09 |  Rugby League

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