Josh Butler of Leeds Rhinos and Martin Norris of Wigan Warriors are notable inclusions in a 10-man England Wheelchair squad for the Mid-Season International against France in Manchester this month which includes players from five different clubs.
The game will be played on Sunday June 19, and shown live on Sky Sports (330pm kick-off) – as both teams continue their preparations for the Rugby League World Cup this autumn.
Butler, a 20-year-old from Kippax whose hopes of following in the footsteps of his Rugby League hero Kevin Sinfield were initially frustrated by a rapid deterioration in his eyesight, has earned a first senior England call with his early-season form for the Rhinos after missing out on the home series against France last autumn.
He is joined in the squad by Rhinos team-mates Nathan Collins and Tom Halliwell, the captain.
Norris, who was a member of the first Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby League team in 2006 and captained the side from 2008-14, has impressed following his recall to the squad after a seven-year absence for the games against France last autumn. He is joined by Wigan team-mates Adam Rigby and Dec Roberts.
Joe Coyd and Lewis King represent the London Roosters club who were formed last winter to represent the south of England in the Betfred Wheelchair Super League.
Rob Hawkins, the Young Player of the Year before Covid in 2019 who has continued his development with Halifax Panthers and England in the last two years, retains his place.
Catalans Dragons, who will face Leeds Rhinos in the Betfred Wheelchair Challenge Cup Final on June 25 – six days after the international – are the fifth club represented in the squad through Sebastian Bechara, whose mother is English and who has played all his international rugby for England.
Tom Coyd, the England Head Coach, said: “This was a tough selection, after our final training camp at UCLAN in Preston on Challenge Cup Final weekend, but that is the way we’d want it in World Cup year.
“Everyone in the Performance Squad of 19 has been working so hard all year following the postponement of the World Cup by 12 months, and my message to the players omitted is that places are still up for grabs.
“To face France in a Mid-Season International is perfect preparation for the World Cup. It’s exciting that we’ve picked a young squad – and we have more strength in depth than ever thanks to the increased intensity of our domestic competitions.”
England Wheelchair squad for Mid-Season International against France
- Tom Halliwell (Leeds Rhinos, captain)
- Seb Bechara (Catalans Dragons)
- Josh Butler (Leeds Rhinos)
- Nathan Collins (Leeds Rhinos)
- Joe Coyd (London Roosters)
- Rob Hawkins (Halifax Panthers)
- Lewis King (London Roosters)
- Martin Norris (Wigan Warriors)
- Adam Rigby (Wigan Warriors)
- Declan Roberts (Wigan Warriors)