England thrashed France 64-0 on Saturday at the Halliwell Jones Stadium as captain George Williams and debutant Ash Handley both scored hat-tricks for Shaun Wane’s side as they claimed the mid-season international title.
Williams, Handley and Harry Smith were the standout performers of a very youthful England side against France and after last year’s World Cup heartache on home soil, this performance will leave fans optimistic for the future with this new batch of young talent coming through. Of Wane’s latest squad filled with adolescents, only Jack Welsby, Ben Currie, Kai Pearce-Paul and Williams have previously turned out for England at senior level.
Leeds Rhinos’ Handley got England off to a perfect start inside three minutes after running onto a smart grubber kick from Williams, diving onto it to score the opening try. This set the tone for the half as England dominated the French, just like their female counterparts had done earlier in the afternoon.
England v France comes at the perfect time after World Cup near-miss
Smith scored the second of the afternoon to make it a debut to remember for him, and within minutes Ethan Havard extended England’s lead further as he saw a gap to run and dive in between the two posts. Tries from Jake Wardle and Williams followed as Wane’s men were putting France to the sword and considering how these players have not really played together, you felt like they had spent years playing rugby alongside one another.
There were a few mistakes from England which could have led to some French danger, and given the circumstances of the squad situation, is understandable. What was most impressive was that if there was a mistake, several players were around to make amends and cover their teammates.
Wane will have been impressed with how his players handled themselves and he will be pleased with the manner of victory despite the squad not having all the stars that featured at the Rugby League World Cup.
It was a great platform for the squad players to give a good account of themselves in front of the head coach ahead of future international matches. Smith in particular will have caught his manager’s eye. Not just because of scoring a try on his debut but the fact that he made six consecutive conversions in an overall strong performance.
Handley scored his second of the match just before the break as England showed that they were hungry for more, while France started to look devoid of ideas on how to deny them from scoring more tries.
To France’s credit they had to make England work to get their first try of the second half as Williams got over for his second of the game. From a scrum, England worked their way to the short side and Handley teed up the skipper for the try to take the score to 40-0. Handley then got his much-deserved hat-trick after a video check before Pearce-Paul got on the scoresheet as Williams claimed his hat-trick.
Danny Walker wrapped up the victory in the dying moments before Williams added the extra points to complete a huge 64-0 win that stemmed from a great team performance. There were so many positives for Wane to take from this game going forward and the young guns will certainly give him a lot to think about when picking his team in the future.