John Kear’s Wales are set to return to action in a full 13-player format for the first time in 1,316 days when they face France in a friendly on Sunday, June 19.
Set to be played at the Stadium Municipal d’Albi – home of Racing Club Albi XIII – it will be the Dragons’ first runout since November 11, 2018, when they beat Ireland to qualify for the Rugby League World Cup.
Though they did play in a 2019 World 9s series, the COVID pandemic has since hampered Wales’ match plans along with pushing the World Cup back to later this year, and Kear is pleased to be back on the grass internationally.
“I think that all nations need to take advantage of the free international weekend. As we’ve not played as a team for a number of years now, I see this as essential preparation for the World Cup against formidable opposition,” said Kear, who also manages Championship side Bradford Bulls at club level.
“The French game has had a renaissance recently – they’ve had success with Catalans and Toulouse and they’re hosting the 2025 World Cup.
“The game will be a tremendous challenge, it’s away from home and it’ll really test our metal to see what we need to work on to improve for the World Cup.
“We’ll have a good team out – as it’s a free weekend we can select from all who are available from Super League.”
France boss Laurent Frayssinous excited by test
Meanwhile, head coach of the French national team –Laurent Frayssinous – is an admirer of the nation he will go up against in the friendly contest, adding: “Wales is a proud nation, who always give their best on the pitch, and are very well organised.
“Trained by John Kear, a former coach of the France team who always knows how to bring out the best in his players. They are made up of quality players from Super League like the wingers Regan Grace and Rhys Williams as well as Caleb Aekins to name a few.
“I can’t wait to be confronted with this formidable Welsh team, and to continue to build the cohesion and the culture of our team.”
Wales’ World Cup campaign begins at the Leigh Sports Village on October 19 when they go up against the Cook Islands in the Men’s Group D.
Kear’s side will also go up against Tonga and Papua New Guinea looking to progress into the knockout stages.