Winger Tom Johnstone scored a first-half hat-trick on debut as England flexed their muscles for the Test series against New Zealand with a 44-6 rout of France in Leigh.
The Wakefield flyer was one of four new caps hoping to stake a claim for spots against the Kiwis and he took his chance to impress head coach Wayne Bennett with some devastating finishing that brought him three tries in 24 minutes.
Johnstone’s Trinity team-mate Reece Lyne and Castleford second rower Oliver Holmes – one of four players called up from the England Knights squad due to fly out of Manchester on Thursday morning for their tour of Papua New Guinea – also caught the eye on their first appearances.
Tom Burgess barged over in the second minute to get the hosts to a rapid start before Johnstone hit his quickfire treble. Stand-off Richie Myler marked his England return with a try to extend their advantage to 26-0 before Luke Thompson grabbed a debut try.
Elliot Whitehead finished off a one-sided first half to give England a 38-0 lead at the break, but the hosts could not replicate their impressive first 40 minutes as Jake Connor - to add to his five goals -touched down for their only second half score with St Helens stand-off Theo Fages scoring a consolation try for France with 17 minutes remaining.
Great run-out ahead of our first match against the Kiwis next Saturday!— England Rugby League (@England_RL) October 17, 2018
Brilliant hat-trick on debut from Tom Johnstone 💪 pic.twitter.com/qQGBCMkQQI
Despite Johnstone's treble, head coach Wayne Bennett admitted the winger may still lose his position against New Zealand.
“We’re pretty well covered in those positions but he’s someone I’ve noticed in the last 12 or 18 months and I’ve been waiting to give him an opportunity,” Bennett said of Johnstone.
“He’s played well tonight but Tommy Makinson is a pretty-fair player. He’s certainly got a future on the wing for England if it’s not this year.
“Jake Connor is quite a player. He's got a good skill level and he’s a good decision-maker. He was good in America and he was good again tonight.
“There were a couple of players I hadn’t seen play before so I learned a bit about them,” he said.
“Oliver Holmes was very good, Richie Myler’s organisation was good, he talked a lot out there and I like some of things Robbie Mulhern did. The full-back (Jamie Shaul) was really good – calm and competes good and really brave.”
France coach Aurelien Cologni said: “I was disappointed with our ball control in the first half. England were too good for us, they were very strong, and we were a bit indiciplined too.
“We talked about that half-time and fixed that in the second half. I was pleased with the second half.
“Maybe we can improve our kicking game for our next game against Wales.
“They were motivated to play but our first objective is the European Cup and it was a better option to save them for that.
“I was happy with some of the new guys, Lambert Belmas did a good job and Paul Marcon was good on the wing.”