England, who play Wales at Sheffield on Saturday (26 June) as part of the build-up to the autumn’s Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup, have confirmed a 10-man squad for the meeting with the recently crowned Celtic Cup champions.
Wales are likely to present a tough challenge after accounting for Ireland and Scotland in Edinburgh and have named a strong squad comprising Richard Carver (Argonauts), Alan Caron, Andrew Higgins, Gary Preece (all Hereford Harriers), Jodie-Ann Boyd-Ward (Leeds Rhinos), Stephen Halsey, Harry Jones, Lucie Roberts, Scott Trigg-Turner, Gary Taylor, Mark Williams (all North Wales Crusaders).
England coach Tom Coyd, meanwhile, said: “Our season and preparation is building nicely.
“The whole of the National Performance Squad put in a huge personal effort over the pandemic period and improved in every dimension. Since we came back to training together in March this year, we have made big improvements every time we get together at practice.”
He continued: “Team selection was a real challenge. Our game is evolving and we are testing ourselves, pushing the boundaries of how the game has been played, and evolving the sport. Players have to be flexible and be able to fit into the playing style.
“Wales will give us a big test and enable us measure progress. Each player who has made selection is there on merit and will get a crack in an international Test Match.”
England will be using new Rugby League Elite Wheelchairs, manufactured by the sports wheelchair specialists RGK, for the first time. General manager Martin Coyd said: “The build-up to the 2021 Rugby League World Cup gives us a wonderful opportunity to test, push and improve everything we do in the game.
“We have built the best possible coaching and support team to give the players the opportunity to be at their best.
“Great coaching, analysis, medicine, nutrition, sports science, psychology and wellbeing are all playing a big role in incremental improvements across the board, and we have created partnerships with a fantastic group of sponsors which has enabled us to source a state of the art, made to measure, ergonomic wheelchair for each player in the RLWC Team.”
He concluded: “RGK make the best wheelchairs in the world and they have developed a Rugby League-specific chair. We believe that this will raise our levels even further and enable the players to feel the benefit of their hard work on and off the field. We are determined to be at our very best come November.”
Dorian Benjamin, the Sales & Marketing Manager at RGK Wheelchairs, said: “Everyone at RGK is absolutely thrilled to be a part of England’s journey to the Rugby League World Cup.
“Over the past year we have developed a fantastic relationship with the whole national team and the management staff. As a company that is heavily involved with world class level sport, we are very privileged to supply the entire team with our Rugby League Elite Wheelchairs and cannot wait to support their journey to and beyond the World Cup.”
England’s squad includes Josh Butler of Leeds Rhinos, who is the current Young Wheelchair Rugby League Player of the Year. Butler, together with Halifax Panthers’ Rob Hawkins and Adam Rigby of Leyland Warriors, are three new faces after not having featured in the triumphant tour of Australia a couple of years ago. The line-up is Sebastien Bechara (Catalans Dragons), Wayne Boardman, Rob Hawkins (both Halifax Panthers), Josh Butler, Nathan Collins, Tom Halliwell, James Simpson (all Leeds Rhinos), Joe Coyd, Lewis King (both Argonauts) and Adam Rigby (Leyland Warriors).
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