Oliver Gildart set for England debut and Sam Tomkins recalled... but in a new role
Oliver Gildart is in line to make his England debut tomorrow '“ in a Test side featuring an all-Wigan halfback pairing.
Sam Tomkins will end a four-year exile from the national side, when he lines up at scrum-half alongside George Williams.
Head coach Wayne Bennett announced his line-up to the media at the captain’s run at the KCOM Stadium in Hull on Friday morning, with the major talking point being the recall of Tomkins after a four-year absence in an unaccustomed role – though he has had spells at halfback this season, despite starting the majority of his games at full-back.
Gildart was only drafted into the squad late as a replacement for Sam Burgess but has got the nod ahead of St Helens’ Mark Percival, with Hull’s Jake Connor in the other role.
The only debutant on Saturday will be Wigan centre Gildart, who said: “It’s not sunk in yet, I think the nerves will hit me tomorrow building up to the game.
“Obviously it’s all new to me so I’m kind of just taking it in my stride. It’s a massive honour, there’s some great players in this squad and I’m really privileged to get my chance.”
Tomorrow’s match is being televised by the BBC.
The three-Test series then moves to Liverpool’s Anfield and then Leeds’ Elland Road.
Teams for Saturday’s first Test at Hull’s KCOM Stadium:
England: J Lomax (St Helens); J McGillvary (Huddersfield), O Gildart (Wigan), J Connor (Hull), T Makinson (St Helens); G Williams (Wigan), S Tomkins (Wigan); C Hill (Warrington), J Hodgson (Canberra), J Graham (St George Illawarra), E Whitehead (Canberra), J Bateman (Wigan), S O’Loughlin (Wigan, capt).
Interchange: D Clark (Warrington), T Burgess (South Sydney), G Burgess (South Sydney), L Thompson (St Helens).
New Zealand: D Watene-Zelezniak (Penrith, capt); K Maumalo (NZ Warriors), E Marsters (Wests Tigers), J Manu (Sydney Roosters), J Rapana (Canberra); S Johnson (NZ Warriors), K Nikorima (Brisbane); J Bromwich (Melbourne), B Smith (Melbourne), J Waerea-Hargreaves (Sydney Roosters), K Proctor (Gold Coast), Isaac Liu (Sydney Roosters), J Fisher-Harris (Penrith).
Interchange: K Bromwich (Melbourne), L Ah Mau (St George Illawarra), M Taupau (Manly), A Blair (NZ Warriors).
Referee: R Hicks (England).