The England Wheelchair Rugby League squad fly to Australia today for an historic Ashes tour – with five Leeds Rhinos players part the first of three England teams to head Down Under in the space of 36 hours.
The Wheelchair team will play two Tests against Australia on October 21 and 23 – with additional fixtures against North Queensland, Queensland and New South Wales.
Captain James Simpson is one of five Rhinos players heading ‘down under’ this autumn, with Ryan Richardson, Nathan Collins and Tom Halliwell also called-up for the tour.
They will be followed to Australia on Saturday by the England men’s and women’s squads selected to compete in the new Downer World Cup Nines in Sydney next weekend – with the Wheelchair squad due to support them at the Bankwest Stadium on the second day of the competition.
Kevin Sinfield, the Rugby Director of the Rugby Football League who leads the England Performance Unit, said: “All three squads are really excited. The Women and Wheelchair teams have been on a really good journey this year in particular, and I’m absolutely delighted our Wheelchair team get out there and play an Ashes series. They’re a world-class team and they absolutely deserve it. We look forward to supporting them the best we can.
“It’s a pretty special year for England Rugby League – and looking to 2021, those three programmes are especially important to us, as we host Men’s, Women’s and Wheelchair World Cups.”
Martin Coyd OBE, the chair of England Wheelchair Rugby League, added: “I’d like to congratulate all players on their selection for England Wheelchair Rugby League’s first Ashes tour of Australia. This is a huge development for the wheelchair game, a massive challenge awaits and I am sure they will do their country proud.
“All players of our game aspire to reach the highest level and pulling on an England jersey in Australia will be the pinnacle. And the more international competition our players can experience between now and hosting the World Cup in 2021, the better-prepared we will be for what will be a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity for the players and the game in this country.
“With the Aussies are coming here in 2020, we will continue to build on our growing reputation and profile as an exciting version of Rugby League ahead of the World Cup.”
The full squad is as follows.
Sebastien Bechara (Catalan Dragons); Wayne Boardman (Halifax); Jack Brown (Halifax); Nathan Collins (Leeds Rhinos); Joe Coyd (Argonauts); Tom Halliwell (Leeds Rhinos); James Hazel (Argonauts); Lewis King (Argonauts); Ryan Richardson (Leeds Rhinos); James Simpson (Leeds Rhinos).
Follow the side’s progress on Twitter @England_RL.