England will play their first game since losing the 2017 World Cup final to Australia in December
England v New Zealand
Venue: Broncos Stadium at Mile High, Denver Date: Saturday, 23 June Kick-off: 21:10 BST
Coverage: Live on BBC Two, BBC Radio 5 live and live text commentary on BBC Sport website and app.

Promoting rugby league in the United States by facing New Zealand in Denver is an “awesome” experience, says England prop Tom Burgess.

A key objective for the sport is to increase interest in North America, which will host the 2025 World Cup.

Saturday’s Test, which is being staged at the home of NFL side Denver Broncos, will be the first that England have played in the USA since 2000.

“It’s important that we drive this,” said South Sydney Rabbitohs’ Burgess.

“There’s definitely something over here for the game. Walking around Denver, everyone wants to know about the game.”

The match, England’s first since being beaten by Australia in the World Cup final in December, is the first of three to be played in the USA over the next three years.

Altitude and travel fears ‘a price worth paying’

The decision to stage the mid-season fixture at the Mile High Stadium in Denver – at an altitude of more than 5,000 feet (1,524m) above sea level – has not been without opposition.

Clubs in Australia’s National Rugby League expressed concerns about a lack of acclimatisation time for players involved, as well as the extensive travelling.

“Sometimes you’ve got to pay a price for that but I think the price is worth paying,” said St George Illawarra prop James Graham – one of eight NRL-based England players who backed the trip in a joint statement released in March.

“We were very passionate about getting this game on. There is the potential to grow this for the next three years and every time I get to represent my country it fills me with immense pride.”

‘It feels like almost a club team’

England will give debuts to Hull FC’s Jake Connor and St Helens’ Tommy Makinson in Denver, but the majority of the squad which reached a first World Cup final for 22 years has remained.

Half-back Gareth Widdop said the current group is “one of the closest” he has been part of, adding: “It feels like almost a club team.”

Highlights from the Rugby League World Cup final

Jermaine McGillvary, a star of England’s World Cup campaign, is expected to keep his place on the wing despite injuries hampering him in the first half of the Super League season with Huddersfield.

“Wayne knows what I’m capable of when I put the shirt on and I reckon that counted a lot, definitely not my form,” said McGillvary, who scored seven tries at the World Cup.

“I’m grateful that he’s stuck by me, like he has in the past, and I don’t think I’ve ever let the team down.”

New era for New Zealand

While the 2017 World Cup was one of progression for England, Saturday’s opponents New Zealand had a tournament to forget.

The 2008 winners were beaten by Tonga in the group phase and then lost a low-scoring quarter-final to Fiji.

Michael Maguire has replaced David Kidwell as head coach and he is yet to appoint a new full-time captain after Simon Mannering retired from the international game.

Rugby League World Cup 2017: New Zealand 2-4 Fiji highlights

Seven Kiwi players are poised to make their debuts against England and Maguire is excited by a “new start” ahead for the country.

“I knew that I was going to be able to blood a lot of young kids,” said the former Wigan Warriors coach.

“I felt it’s the right time to make some changes, to bring some young kids and take the jersey forward.”


England: Ratchford, McGillvary, Bateman, Percival, Hall, Lomax, Widdop, Hill, Roby, Graham, S Burgess, Whitehead, O’Loughlin.

Interchange: Connor, T Burgess, Taylor, Makinson

New Zealand: Watene-Zelezniak; Isaako, Marsters, Hiku, Maumalo; Maire Martin, Nikorima; Waerea-Hargreaves, Luke, Asofa-Solomona, Faitala-Mariner, Tapine, Taupau.

Interchanges: Fisher-Harris, Griffin, Ese’ese, Ah Mau, Kahu, Liu.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here