England v New Zealand: Three uncapped players in squad for Denver Test

Jake Connor
Jake Connor has scored six tries for Hull FC in the Super League this season
England v New Zealand
Date: Saturday, 23 June Venue: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, Colorado Kick-off: 21.10 BST
Coverage: Live on BBC Two, BBC Radio 5 live and live text commentary on BBC Sport website and app.

Uncapped trio Jake Connor, Luke Thompson and Tommy Makinson have been included in England's squad for this month's Test against New Zealand.

The 19-man squad also includes a recall for George Burgess.

"I have selected a strong squad that I believe has ability and talent. The game is going to be a tough one but we will go into it with confidence," said England coach Wayne Bennett.

The one-off Test takes place in Denver, Colorado on 23 June.

Versatile Hull FC back Connor and St Helens prop Luke Thompson impressed while with the England Knights performance squad in March.

Thompson and Makinson are two of five St Helens players in the 19-man squad, which also contains six overseas-based players.

South Sydney Rabbitohs' George Burgess will once again join his brothers Sam and Thomas in the squad after missing out on selection for the 2017 World Cup.

James Graham, Elliott Whitehead and Gareth Widdop are the other three players from the NRL in Australia.

"We have been impressed with all the players this season and the three uncapped players deserve their call-ups after showing their talent and determination both on and off the field," added Bennett.

"We have always been clear that the door to the senior squad is open to any player showing the form to be selected. The squad has a real mix of experience and youth and that will prove important during our time in Denver."

Analysis

Dave Woods, BBC Rugby League Correspondent

As ever in England's recent past, the strength of this squad lies in the pack. The three Burgess brothers, back in harness in an England shirt for the first time in two years, are all in blockbusting form at South Sydney Rabbitohs. Tom and George especially are playing as well as at any point in their careers.

Luke Thompson, who is likely to make his debut, has been a ball of energy for St Helens. The prop has stepped up to replace the injured Alex Walmsley at club level, now he has to do the same for England.

Winger Makinson has also deserved his call-up in a year when he's played his part in St Helens' headline making form.

Connor's selection is an interesting one. He steps up from the England Knights' squad with the element of versatility on his side and could fill one of the problem centre roles in the absence of the injured Kallum Watkins.

But there will be many disappointed not to see either Danny Richardson, the young St Helens half-back, who has come of age this year, or Warrington winger Josh Charnley. Richardson has shown he has the skills and temperament to direct St Helens' bid for treble glory this season. But this is his first year as a fully-fledged first-team player and maybe Bennett wants to see how he fares in big club games to come before he's given the international nod.

There had, though, been a clamour for him to be involved and, if nothing else, gain the experience of mixing with England's elite players. Charnley can't have been far away from selection with nine tries in nine Super League appearances since his return from rugby union.

But it's hard to argue with Bennett holding faith with his incumbent wingers Ryan Hall and Jermaine McGillvary who were both outstanding in last year's World Cup campaign.

St Helens fans will be holding their collective breath during the Denver Test match, played at altitude. They have five players involved, more than any other club, and it will be interesting to see if they risk playing all five in the following week's game against Wakefield.

England Squad: John Bateman, George Burgess, Sam Burgess, Thomas Burgess, Jake Connor, James Graham, Ryan Hall, Chris Hill, Jonny Lomax, Tommy Makinson, Jermaine McGillvary, Sean O'Loughlin, Mark Percival, Stefan Ratchford, James Roby, Luke Thompson, Gareth Widdop, George Williams, Elliott Whitehead.

England's 2018 Test schedule

  • England v New Zealand (Sports Authority Field, Denver) - Saturday, 23 June, 21:10 BST
  • England v New Zealand (KCOM Stadium, Hull) - Saturday, 27 October, 14:30 BST
  • England v New Zealand (Anfield, Liverpool) - Saturday, 3 November, 17:30 GMT
  • England v New Zealand (Elland Road, Leeds) - Sunday, 11 November, 15:15 GMT

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