England have made two changes to the 19-man squad they selected against Fiji for Saturday’s Rugby League World Cup 2013 quarter-final against France at the DW Stadium, Wigan (8.00pm).
Wigan Warriors winger Josh Charnley and St Helens hooker James Roby both return to the squad in place of Hull FC’s Tom Briscoe and Carl Ablett of Leeds Rhinos.
Charnley, who missed England’s final two group matches, will be hoping to impress at his home stadium where he became the leading try-scorer in the 2013 Super League season with 34 touchdowns.
“It has been a difficult selection,” said England coach Steve McNamara, who believes his team are improving each week in the competition.
“We have no injuries to worry about and we have picked the strongest possible squad to take on France.
“The competition for places, across all areas of the squad, is phenomenal and, as a staff, we are seeing a real competitive edge from every member; whether that is in the gym on on the training field. It is a great position to be in and I acknowledge that we have a tremendous work ethic with every member of the group supporting each other.”
With France beaten last autumn in the final of the 2012 Autumn Internationals by England, Saturday will be the first time that both nations have met since the 48-4 victory for Steve McNamara’s men just over a year ago, and the England coach knows that his players will be in a battle.
“We are playing knockout football this weekend,” he said. “There are no second chances and we have to turn it on. It is a big game occasion, the quarter-final of the Rugby League World Cup, and we are well aware that we will have to play well to progress.
“We played with a lot of vigour and intent against Fiji. We showed, for long periods of the game, that we can play to a high standard. We need to improve our concentration and be on our game for the full duration this week. We are gradually improving each week. Now is the time to really produce the goods.
“Even though we know the strengths of the France team, with their Super League experience, our focus this week has been on our game and making sure we continue to build.
“The lads have been terrific, in every session, and we are very excited about playing in front of another bumper crowd.
“It should be a fantastic night at the DW Stadium with a passionate atmosphere expected at one of the sport’s best stadiums.”
The England 19-man squad to face France at DW Stadium, Wigan on Saturday November 16 2013 (8.00pm) is as follows (professional club and community club in brackets):
George Burgess (South Sydney Rabbitohs, Dewsbury Moor)
Sam Burgess (South Sydney Rabbitohs, Dewsbury Moor)
Rob Burrow (Leeds Rhinos, Featherstone Lions)
Josh Charnley (Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Patricks)
Rangi Chase (Castleford Tigers, Dannevirke Tigers)
Leroy Cudjoe (Huddersfield Giants, Newsome Panthers)
Liam Farrell (Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Patricks)
Brett Ferres (Huddersfield Giants, Smawthorne Panthers)
James Graham (Canterbury Bulldog, Blackbrook)
Ryan Hall (Leeds Rhinos, Oulton Raiders)
Chris Hill (Warrington Wolves, New Spring Lions)
Michael McIlorum (Wigan Warriors, Queens)
Lee Mossop (Wigan Warriors, Hensingham)
Sean O’Loughlin (Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Patricks)
James Roby (St Helens, Blackbrook)
Kevin Sinfield (captain) (Leeds Rhinos, Waterhead)
Sam Tomkins (Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Patricks)
Kallum Watkins (Leeds Rhinos, Latchford Albion)
Ben Westwood (Warrington Wolves, Normanton Knights)