13th June 2019, 09:00 | englandrl
England’s Wheelchair squad will step up preparations for hosting the 2021 World Cup with Test matches in France later this month, while provisional plans are in place for a three-Test series Down Under this autumn.
Head coach Mark Roughsedge has named a nine-strong squad for two Test Matches against France, the world champions – in Apt next Friday (21 June), followed by Toulon on Sunday 23 June. Leeds Rhinos provide five of the players. The only non-Wheelchair Super League representative is Catalans Dragons’ Sebastian Bechara. Players from Kent-based Argonauts and Halifax make up the rest of the England contingent, who will get together at Medway Park in Gillingham prior to travelling to the south of France via Eurostar and TGV.
In October, subject to confirmation, England will embark on a 17 day Ashes Tour to Australia. England will warm up for the First Test with a match against Queensland in Townsville (Wednesday 16 October) before facing Australia in Brisbane two days later (Friday 18 October). The squad will then travel south to Sydney, where they will take on New South Wales (Sunday 20 October) before the second test on Tuesday 22 October.
England’s tour is provisionally scheduled to culminate with a third and final Test on Thursday 24 October in Wollongong – 24 hours prior to the annual Australia versus New Zealand ANZAC tests for both women’s and men’s sides in the same city.
Martin Coyd OBE, the chair of England Wheelchair Rugby League, said: “This is massive for the game – a first Ashes tour for England Wheelchair Rugby League to Australia. All players of our game aspire to reach the highest level and pulling on an England jersey in Australia will be the pinnacle.
“France are perhaps the team to beat in Wheelchair Rugby League and they will doubtless prove formidable opposition when we cross the Channel this month. We have faced each other in the last three global international events and they lead 2-1, but there are only four points between the teams on aggregate over those games – it’s that close. There have been four global events since 2008 and we are equal over that period.
“The more international competition our players can experience between now and hosting the World Cup in 2021, the better-prepared we will be for what will be a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity for the players and the game in this country.
“Travelling to Australia would be a huge part of our preparation to be the best we can be for 2021. The Aussies are coming here in 2020 and we will continue to build on our growing reputation and profile as a global sport – a tremendously exciting variety of Rugby League.”
Wheelchair Rugby League, primarily a disability sport, is part of the England Performance Unit (EPU) which is focused on success at RLWC2021 and beyond for England’s men’s, women’s and wheelchair teams.
Kevin Sinfield MBE, the RFL’s Rugby Director who leads the England Performance Unit, said: “England Wheelchair is one of the six teams in the EPU and one of three which will be representing England in front of home crowds in the 2021 World Cup.
“Everything we are doing in the EPU is building towards 2021, and the England Wheelchair trip to Australia is a significant part of that.
“We’ve already confirmed that our men’s and women’s teams will be competing in the World Cup Nines in Sydney, and we hope to announce further significant fixtures for England Women and England Knights in the coming weeks.”
England Wheelchair squad for internationals in France: Jodie Boyd-Ward (Leeds Rhinos); Jack Brown (Halifax); Sebastian Bechara (Catalans Dragons); Nathan Collins (Leeds Rhinos); Joe Coyd (Argonauts); Tom Halliwell (Leeds Rhinos); Lewis King (Argonauts), Ryan Richardson, James Simpson (Leeds Rhinos).