England star Liam Farrell keen to see game grow in France

ENGLAND star Liam Farrell says a strong France will benefit the international game immensely.

Les Tricolores have fixed up a game against Serbia at Belgrade on Sunday, September 24.

It’s their first outing since losing 64-0 to England at Warrington in April and comes after the postponement of the planned European Championship in October and November.

Les Tricolores would have faced Italy, Spain and Wales, but the tournament was put on ice after France withdrew from hosting the World Cup in 2025.

A ten-nation World Cup will now take place in the Southern Hemisphere in 2026, with last year’s quarter-finalists qualifying automatically and the framework for deciding the other two entrants yet to be announced.

France have featured in all 16 previous World Cups, finishing runners-up in 1954 and 1968, but haven’t progressed beyond the group stage since reaching the quarter-finals in 2013, and face the prospect of missing out in 2026.

Wigan backrower Farrell, who has designs on making the England squad for the forthcoming series against Tonga after missing out on last year’s World Cup because of a knee injury, has three times faced France.

His last England appearance was against Les Tricolores at Perpignan in October 2021, when he scored a try as Shaun Wane’s side won 30-10.

The Wigan captain was back at the Stade Gilbert Brutus when the Warriors beat Super League title challengers Catalans Dragons recently.

He’s been impressed by the investment Catalans have made in their development system and said: “They have committed to it and now have a foundation of young talent.

“Some of those players have played their part in getting Catalans to where they are now, and over the years, they will get stronger and stronger, and so will the system.

“That will benefit France by making the national team stronger, and that will benefit the international game as a whole.”

The most recent of France’s four previous meetings with Serbia was during the 2018 European Championship, when they won 54-2 at Belgrade in preparation for the European Championship, which they won.

Since then Serbia, who are coached by Englishman Darren Fisher, have risen to tenth in the International Rugby League rankings (France are ninth) and recently defeated hosts Czech Republic 28-16 in Krupka.