England have named a 16-player National Performance Squad to continue preparations for the Rugby League World Cup later this year.
Coaches Tom Coyd and Martyn Rothwell made their selection after last weekend’s season-opening Wheelchair Rugby League 4s in Sheffield – venue for England’s Mid-Season International against Wales on June 26.
The majority of the squad will be in action today, as the 2021 Wheelchair Super League kicks off – with live coverage on Our League and Twitch of the triple header involving Leeds Rhinos, Leyland Warriors and North Wales Crusaders in Preston.
The Rhinos, who won the Wheelchair Challenge Cup for the first time in 2019, have four players selected – James Simpson, Tom Halliwell, Nathan Collins and Josh Butler.
They will go head to head with Adam Rigby and Declan Roberts of the Leyland Warriors in the last of today’s three games, which will be streamed live on Twitch and Our League, and is scheduled to kick off at 130pm.
Meanwhile in Hull, seven more of the England squad will clash when Halifax Panthers, the reigning Wheelchair Super League champions, take on the Argonauts Skeleton Army from Kent.
Halifax are represented in the NPS by Nathan Mulhall, Wayne Boardman and Rob Hawkins, the Wheelchair RL Young Player of the Year in 2019.
Lewis King, who was the Wheelchair RL Player of the Year for 2019, is one of four Argonauts in the squad with Joe Coyd, James Hazel and Fred Nye.
Warrington’s Lenny Izzard is the only Championship player in the squad, and there are two who are based overseas - Seb Bechara of the Catalans Dragons and Jack Brown, who was the inaugural winner of International Rugby League’s Wheelchair Golden Boot as the best player in the world in 2019, and remains a key figure in England’s World Cup planning despite his recent move to Queensland.
England’s Head Coach Tom Coyd said: “This was a tough selection as the 2020 National Performance Squad worked so hard over the last 18 months, all the way through the adversity in Lockdowns and the suspension of training and games. I couldn’t have asked for any more and we have improved in many areas.
“We now have an intense month to get ready to perform against Wales in the Mid-Season International, and the pressure is on all of the players to get into the team and deliver against a strong Wales team. We are excited about the opportunity and very focused on achieving our standards in everything we do.”
Coyd will select a 10-player squad for the Wales match, which will be followed by a week of trials and matches in July before a 10-player World Cup squad is named later in the summer.