England will do something they’ve not done in 70 years this weekend

James Gordon
George Williams England

Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

England return to action this weekend for the first time since their heartbreaking World Cup semi-final defeat to Samoa.

The Halliwell Jones Stadium in Warrington will host a mid-season international double-header between England and France, with the women’s game at 2pm preceding the men’s at 4.30pm.

Shaun Wane has named a 19-man squad for the test following a number of withdrawals through injury and suspension.

But the occasion has been boosted by the news that Tonga are visiting England in a tour later this year, which will see three test matches played in Huddersfield, Leeds and St Helens.

A rare spring test

The game this weekend is the first time England have played a match in April for 70 years.

The last was on April 11 1953, when England defeated France 15-13 in front of an estimated 25,000 crowd in Paris.

Starring for England that day was Barrow legend Willie Horne, who was also Great Britain captain for the 1952 test series against Australia.

Horne is in the RFL Hall of Fame and a statue of him stands opposite Craven Park.

Another legend of the game and Hall of Fame member John Whiteley, who served Hull with great distinction between 1950 and 1965, played in the match at loose forward.

On the opposite side was arguably the greatest French rugby league player of all time, Puig Aubert, just a year before he would lead them as captain in the first ever Rugby League World Cup.

The England team that day was (courtesy of Rugby League Project): Albert Blan, Dick Cracknell, Doug Greenall, Albert Naughton, Stan McCormick, Willie Horne, Gerry Helme, Alan Prescott, Alvin Ackerley, Ted Slevin, Charlie Pawsey, Derrick Schofield, John Whiteley

Record against France

England have dominated recent meetings with France, and haven’t lost against them sincxe February 1981, then France won 5-1 in Leeds.

Games in recent years have been very one-sided, and you have to go back to 1999 to find a game that was decided by a single figure margin – when England won 28-20 in Carcassonne.

France managed to score just one try in each of the seven meetings between 2012 and 2018.

The last time France faced England in Warrington they were beaten 12-6 in March 1979.

Previous internationals in Warrington

It’s the first full England international played at Warrington since the European Championship Final 2004, when England beat Ireland 36-12 at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, which had only opened earlier that year.

Now Warrington chief executive Karl Fitzpatrick played for Ireland in the game, as did current Ireland head coach Ged Corcoran.

England were captained by former Warrington prop turned actor Rob Parker, while Rob Burrow scored a try and six goals from hooker.

Warrington has hosted Exiles and Combined Nations All Stars games on a regular basis in recent years. In 2011, the Four Nations game between Australia and New Zealand was played there, and it hosted two games at the 2013 World Cup, including New Zealand’s win over Samoa made infamous by Sonny Bill Williams’ slip over the dead ball line when attempting to score a try.

Four games were held at the ground at the most recent World Cup, including the quarter-final between Tonga and Samoa.

England v France squads

England: Matty Ashton (Warrington), Ben Currie (Warrington), Tyler Dupree (Salford), Ash Handley (Leeds), James Harrison (Warrington), Ethan Havard (Wigan), Tom Holroyd (Leeds), Toby King (Wigan), Mikey Lewis (Hull KR), Jez Litten (Hull KR), Matty Nicholson (Warrington), Kai Pearce-Paul (Wigan), Harry Smith (Wigan), Morgan Smithies (Wigan), Josh Thewlis (Warrington), Danny Walker (Warrington), Jake Wardle (Wigan), Jack Welsby (St Helens), George Williams (Warrington)  

France: Tiaki Chan (Catalans), Mathieu Cozza (Featherstone), Jordan Dezaria (Catalans), Romain Franco (St-Esteve), Mickael Goudemand (Catalans), Louis Jouffret (Halifax), Benjamin Jullien (Pia), Mathieu Jussaume (Toulouse), Matthieu Laguerre (Catalans), Samisoni Langi (Wakefield), Paul Marcon (Toulouse), Anthony Marion (Toulouse), Arthur Mourgue (Catalans), Arthur Romano (Catalans), Cesar Rouge (Catalans), Justin Sangare (Leeds), Bastien Scimone (Catalans), Ugo Tison (Catalans), Florian Vailhen (Pia), Tanguy Zenon (Catalans)