England and New Zealand meet for a mid-season international in Denver. Here’s everything you need to know…
This is England’s first international match since the 6-0 defeat to Australia in the World Cup final back in December.
Coach Wayne Bennett remains in charge and he has opted for continuity, with 15 of his 17 players coming from that World Cup squad.
The two fresh players are both debutants, with St Helens winger Tommy Makinson and Hull FC half-back or centre Jake Connor rewarded for their form in Super League.
Wigan Warriors stand-off George Williams had already been ruled out of the match with a knee injury, while Warrington Wolves’ Kevin Brown announced his international retirement a few months ago.
That leaves some big players out of the halves with Castleford Tigers’ Man of Steel Luke Gale also out with injury, as are the likes of Leeds Rhinos centre Kallum Watkins and St Helens’ powerhouse prop Alex Walmsley.
England 17-man squad: John Bateman (Wigan Warriors), Sam Burgess (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Thomas Burgess (South Sydney Rabbitohs) Jake Connor (Hull FC), James Graham (St George Illawarra Dragons), Ryan Hall (Leeds Rhinos), Chris Hill (Warrington Wolves), Jonny Lomax (St Helens), Tommy Makinson (St Helens), Jermaine McGillvary (Huddersfield Giants), Sean O’Loughlin (Wigan Warriors), Mark Percival (St Helens), Stefan Ratchford (Warrington Wolves), James Roby (St Helens), Scott Taylor (Hull FC), Elliott Whitehead (Canberra Raiders), Gareth Widdop (St George Illawarra Dragons).
There has been plenty of change for New Zealand since their disastrous World Cup campaign, in which they lost to Tonga in the group stage before bowing out to Fiji 4-2 in the quarter-finals.
Coach David Kidwell paid the price, and the task of restoring the Kiwis has been given to former Wigan and South Sydney boss Michael Maguire.
He has included seven uncapped players in his 19-man squad, including wingers Ken Maumalo and Jamayne Isaako, of the New Zealand Warriors and Brisbane Broncos respectively, and Wests Tigers centre Esan Marsters.
The forward pack looks particularly formidable, with the likes of experienced Sydney Roosters prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves alongside Melbourne Storm’s Nelson Asofa-Solomona.
They are complemented by debutants in front rowers Leeson Ah Mau (St George Illawarra Dragons) and Herman Ese’ese and hooker Slade Griffin (both Newcastle Knights), and Canterbury Bulldogs second rower Raymond Faitala-Mariner.
All the changes mean some notable omissions, with half-back Shaun Johnson the biggest absentee along with players like full-back Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
New Zealand 19-man squad: Leeson Ah Mau (St George Illawarra Dragons), Nelson Asofa-Solomona (Melbourne Storm), Herman Ese-ese (Newcastle Knights), Raymond Faitala-Mariner (Canterbury Bulldogs), Slade Griffin (Newcastle Knights), Peta Hiku (New Zealand Warriors), Jamayne Isaako (Brisbane Broncos), Jordan Kahu (Brisbane Broncos), Isaac Liu (Sydney Roosters), Isaac Luke (New Zealand Warriors), Te Maire Martin (North Queensland Cowboys), Esan Marsters (Wests Tigers), Ken Maumalo (New Zealand Warriors), Kodi Nikorima (Brisbane Broncos), Joseph Tapine (Canberra Raiders), Martin Taupau (Manly Sea Eagles), Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Sydney Roosters), Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (Penrith Panthers)
HEAD TO HEAD
New Zealand have faced an England side on 15 occasions in total, winning six, losing eight and drawing once. Of the eleven meetings in the last decade, however, they have won seven to England’s four.
The sides have each won two of the last four meetings, with the Kiwis edging the last contest two years ago 17-16 at the John Smith’s Stadium in Huddersfield.
They last met on neutral soil at the 2008 World Cup, when New Zealand won 32-22 in Brisbane to reach the final having also defeated England in the group stages.
No England or Great Britain side has been able to beat them away from home in ten attempts since 1992.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Saturday 23rd June
Venue: Broncos Stadium at Mile High, Denver, Colorado, U.S.
Kick-off: 2:10pm local time (9:10pm UK time, 8:10am NZ time)
Referee: Ben Thaler
WHO WILL WIN?