Rugby League

Wigan's George Williams in line for England bow

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Wigan youngster George Williams is set make a surprise debut for England in Saturday's Test match against France at Leigh Sports Village.

Super League's young player of the year, who turns 21 on the last day of the month, is one of four uncapped players named in England coach Steve McNamara's 19-man squad and looks certain to play after getting the nod ahead of his Warriors team-mate Matty Smith and Castleford scrum-half Luke Gale.

"George has been sensational in the second half of the year," said McNamara, who will pair the Wigan St Patrick's junior with Sydney-based Gareth Widdop.

Williams' Wigan team-mates John Bateman and Joe Burgess are also hoping to make their debuts, along with former Warrington prop Mike Cooper, who like Burgess was a non-playing member of England's 2014 Four Nations squad.

As expected, Sam Tomkins is ruled out after failing to recover in time from a knee injury that curtailed his NRL career with New Zealand Warriors and that has spared McNamara the tricky decision of whom to play at full-back.

The number one jersey will go to Zak Hardaker, the newly-crowned Man of Steel, who was pushing Tomkins for the spot after a fine season for treble winners Leeds.

"Sam's really close, but we don't want to push him," McNamara said. "We want a fully-fit Sam Tomkins to push himself into contention for next week."

Tomkins, whose last match for the Warriors was on August 30, is expected to be fit for the first of three Tests against New Zealand at Hull's KC Stadium on Sunday, week, but Hardaker has first chance to stake his claim for the full-back spot when he wins only his second cap.

Hardaker made his debut against Wales in 2012, but has so far failed to fulfil his international potential. He was thrown out of England's squad during the 2013 World Cup for a breach of discipline and was an unused member of last year's touring squad.

"I've been in the England set-up now since 2011, first with England Knights, so I've always been there or thereabouts," Hardaker said.

"But it's been a big learning curve for myself really over the last four or five years, I know the progression I've made, but I know what level I can achieve and I'm trying to get my foot in the door.

"Last year was frustrating on one level, but on another it was one of best times of my life, because I'd never been to Australia before.

" I've had a pretty good year to give myself the best opportunity."

Huddersfield winger Jermaine McGillvary and Warrington second rower Ben Currie, who are both uncapped, are the other players left out of McNamara's 24-man squad, who have set up camp at the plush FA training base in Burton-on-Trent.

"We have healthy competition for places across all areas," McNamara added. "The players are aware of this and continue to put in the effort in training to make sure they are prepared and ready for what should be a thrilling game.

"We've had a very good few weeks since meeting up with the squad and we've prepared well at the magnificent facilities at St George's Park.

"We know what this French side is capable of. They're a very passionate team on the pitch and have plenty of talent in their group."

England's 19-man squad is: J Bateman (Wigan), J Burgess (Wigan), T Burgess (South Sydney), M Cooper (St George Illawarra), L Cudjoe (Huddersfield), L Farrell (Wigan), B Ferres (Huddersfield), J Graham (Canterbury Bulldogs), R Hall (Leeds), Z Hardaker (Leeds), C Hill (Warrington), J Hodgson (Canberra), S O'Loughlin (Wigan, capt), J Roby (St Helens), K Watkins (Leeds), B Westwood (Warrington), E Whitehead (Catalans Dragons), G Widdop (St George Illawarra), G Williams (Wigan).

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