Ward and Gale on course to make England debuts

Stevie Ward.
Stevie Ward.
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Leeds Rhinos forward Stevie Ward and Castleford Tigers half-back Luke Gale are on course to make their England debut against France on Saturday.

Ward has been named in coach Wayne Bennett’s 19-man squad for the Test in Avignon, just two days after joining the group.

Luke Gale.

Luke Gale.

The Leeds man was called up on Tuesday in place of clubmate Brett Ferres, who has been ruled out after suffering a quad injury in training.

Leeds winger Ryan Hall and centre Kallum Watkins are also set to feature against France, along with Gale, who was an unused member of England’s squad for last year’s Test series against New Zealand.

St Helens duo Mark Percival and Jonny Lomax, Hull FC forward Scott Taylor and Warrington’s Stefan Ratchford are the other uncapped players in the 19.

James Graham will captain the side in place of new skipper Sam Burgess, who is suspended.

Bennett said: “The players have trained well all week and are looking forward to the trip to France.

“There’s plenty of competition for places in this squad and it’s good to see a few new faces in there possibly having a run out in Avignon.

“The week leading into this game has been good and the training facilities in London at the Honourable Artillery Company have been outstanding.

“France are a passionate team and will have plenty of support behind them in Avignon.

“There’s talent in their side and some Super League experience so we know what to expect on Saturday.

“As the away side, it’s the kind of environment that I want my side to be challenged in this international Test.”

The England 19-man squad is: Brown (Widnes Vikings), G Burgess (South Sydney Rabbitohs), T Burgess (South Sydney), Clark (Warrington Wolves), Cooper (Warrington/St George-Illawarra), Farrell (Wigan Warriors), Gale (Castleford Tigers), Graham (Canterbury Bulldogs), Hall (Leeds Rhinos), Hodgson (Canberra Raiders), Lomax (St Helens), McGillvary (Huddersfield Giants), Percival (St Helens), Ratchford (Warrington), Taylor (Hull), Ward (Leeds), Watkins (Leeds), Whitehead (Canberra), Widdop (St George).

Cory Aston, in action for Leeds Rhinos.

Cory Aston out to make a big impact after joining Castleford Tigers