Ian Millward expects England to build on their 2009 Four Nations form and gather momentum going into this autumn’s Four Nations Down Under when they face France in the Gillette Fusion International at Leigh Sports Village on Saturday June 12.
The match is the first international to be played at Leigh’s new 11,000-capacity stadium and England’s first under their newly-appointed coach Steve McNamara, who Millward feels will be aiming to make a bold statement.
“What’s important is that the team was heading in the right direction last year. The scoreline isn’t the most important factor, but a strong performance is.
Millward will be an avid spectator as Rugby League comes to the home of his current club and the Australian believes that having games of this magnitude will help establish Leigh Sports Village as a major venue.
“It is a refreshing change for all spectators to experience a new stadium in the Rugby League heartlands,” he said.
“Rugby League is the main focus in the town and it is important to get recognition in the area.
“It is a welcome change for spectators and players coming to Leigh Sports Village and playing in a new environment.”
The game against France will give players the opportunity to impress the new England coach before heading Down Under for the 2010 Four Nations in October and Millward believes that St Helens’ James Graham and Wigan Warriors’ Sam Tomkins will be key to their chances in the competition.
“James Graham is arguably the best forward in Super League and in Sam Tomkins you have a player who is prepared to take the ball through the defensive line, so they will be crucial to England’s chances,” said Millward.
After a successful last year, when they reached the Gillette Four Nations final and stood toe to toe with Australia for over an hour, England will be looking to go one better this summer and the match at Leigh is the national team’s only fixture on home soil in 2010.