England 64-0 France: George Williams and Ash Handley score hat-tricks in thumping win

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England captain George Williams goes in for a try against France
George Williams took over as England captain from Sam Tomkins
England (36) 64
Tries: Handley 3, Smith, Havard, Wardle, Williams 3, Pearce-Paul, Walker Goals: Smith 9, Williams
France (0) 0

England took their first step towards the 2025 Rugby League World Cup with a thumping victory over France in Warrington.

Shaun Wane’s youthful side, featuring 15 debutants, showed plenty of potential with 11 tries.

New England captain George Williams led by example on his home ground, scoring a hat-trick in a one-sided encounter.

Williams’s kicking game was also key in setting up Leeds winger Ash Handley for three tries.

With only three players involved from last autumn’s disappointing World Cup campaign, which ended against Samoa in the semi-final, this was a chance for the next generation to stake their claim for both this autumn’s Test series against Tonga and the next World Cup in France.

And when England opened the scoring in the fourth minute when a kick over the top by Williams found Handley on the wing, it looked like the home side’s recent dominance against their opponents would continue.

France, who were also missing some of their more experienced players, started to find their way into the game without causing too many problems for England, who soaked up the pressure and played some controlled rugby.

The new-look half-back pairing of Williams and Wigan’s Harry Smith started to gel as the half went on and England took control.

And once Jake Wardle dummied to set up his Warriors club-mate Smith for England’s second try on 20 minutes, Laurent Frayssinous’s young side struggled to respond.

The visitors’ defence stood off as loose forward Morgan Smithies fed another Wigan player Ethan Havard for a debut try.

England were dominant and on the back of a Danny Walker 40/20, the ball was passed from Smith to Jack Welsby who fed Wardle to touch down.

France fell further behind moments later when a superb ball from Welsby set Handley away and he beat the defence to pass inside for supporting skipper Williams to score.

In the final minute of the half, another moment of magic from Williams found Handley for his second try, with Smith kicking his sixth goal out of six for a 36-0 advantage at the break.

England continued to control matters in the second half – and Handley turned provider for Williams after 53 minutes, although Smith was unable to convert.

Handley completed his eighth career hat-trick on the hour mark, thanks to another superb Williams kick out to the wing, while credit must also go to Litton for a break in the build-up.

Another Williams run set up a try for Wigan’s Kai Pearce-Paul, who will be moving to NRL side Newcastle Knights next season, before the captain used his speed to get on the end of a Handley break to complete his own hat-trick.

And in the dying seconds, Williams and Welsby combined for one final time in the match to send debutant Walker over for his first international try.

England: Welsby, Handley, King, Wardle, Ashton, Williams, Smith, Holroyd, Walker, Havard, Nicholson, Pearce-Paul, Smithies

Interchange: Litten, Harrison, Currie, Dupree

France: Zenon, Romano, Langi, Laguerre, Marcon, Morgue, Rouge, Chan, Marion, Vailhen, Jullien, Cozza, Goudemand.

Interchange: Tison, Sangare, Scimone, Jouffret

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