Goulding handed England debut

England will give a debut to Wigan Warriors winger Darrell Goulding in Saturday’s opening Four Nations match against New Zealand at Westpac Stadium, Wellington.

The 22-year-old replaces Ryan Hall, who has a hamstring injury, and is one of three changes to the team that drew 18-all with the New Zealand Maori in Auckland last Saturday.

James Graham, who sat out last week’s match, comes straight in as a direct replacement for injured captain Adrian Morley whilst Stuart Fielden starts at prop in place of Darrell Griffin, who is named on the interchange bench in place of Eorl Crabtree.

England have enjoyed a successful week’s preparation in Wellington going into Saturday’s match and coach Steve McNamara is confident of his side’s prospects.

“The week has gone really well and we’re looking forward to playing the Kiwis,” said McNamara, who has big hopes for his new-look front row.

“We have a couple of other players who are ready to play at prop as well so we’re very fortunate in that area and I think we also have a lot of talent in our backs. Ryan Hall’s absence gives Darrell Goulding his first opportunity at this level and I think he’s going to go well.

“Darrell is a very talented young player who has been playing in a winning team, which in itself breeds confidence. He’s tremendously tough in terms of the work he gets through and the carries he makes. He’s also a player who knows his way to the goal-line and his try-scoring record is fantastic.

“He thoroughly deserves his place in the team.”

Although England were less than impressive in the second half against the Maori last week, when they surrendered an 18-0 interval lead to share the spoils, McNamara insists the experience was just what his team needed.

“I don’t think there was much wrong last week,” he said. “It was a really positive experience for us, both in the first and the second half.

“We did a lot of good things in the first half and the second half showed us where we need to improve. It gave us a great platform on which to practise this week.”

With input from his assistant coach Brian Smith, the head coach of NRL Grand Finalists Sydney Roosters, McNamara has an in-depth knowledge of New Zealand but is not focusing too closely on opponents who they defeated 20-12 in their last meeting in the 2009 Four Nations.

“Saturday is mainly about ourselves,” he said. “We have a good awareness of what New Zealand are good at, both individually and collectively.

“There are some areas of our game we need to improve, regardless of the quality of the opposition. Every game we play in the Four Nations is going to be tough, regardless of where we play or who the opposition are.

“The Kiwis are a team which has been together for a reasonably long period of time now, their half-backs understand each other well and they’re a well prepared team but so are we.”

The England team versus New Zealand on Saturday is as follows (professional club and community club in brackets):

1 Gareth Widdop (Melbourne Storm, King Cross)
2 Darrell Goulding (Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Patricks)
3 Michael Shenton (Castleford Tigers, Upton)
4 Ryan Atkins (Warrington Wolves, Stanningley)
5 Tom Briscoe (Hull FC, Featherstone Lions)
6 Kevin Brown (Huddersfield Giants, Thatto Heath)
7 Sam Tomkins (Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Patricks)
8 James Graham (St Helens, Blackbrook)
9 James Roby (St Helens, Blackbrook)
10 Stuart Fielden (Wigan Warriors, Illingworth)
11 Gareth Ellis (Wests Tigers, Castleford Lock Lane)
12 Sam Burgess (South Sydney, Dewsbury Moor)
13 Sean O’Loughlin (Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Patricks)

14 Luke Robinson (Huddersfield Giants, Siddal)
15 Darrell Griffin (Huddersfield Giants, Oxford Cavaliers)
16 Joel Tomkins (Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Patricks)
17 Ben Westwood (Warrington Wolves, Normanton Knights)

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