|Place: Gilbert Brutus Stadium, Perpignan Dated: saturday 23 october To start up:12:00 p.m. BST women, 2:30 p.m. BST men|
|Blanket: Live on BBC Two (women) and BBC One (men), with text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app.|
England mainstay Alex Walmsley has said he and his teammates expect to enter a “lion cage” when they enter Perpignan pitch for Saturday’s unique test match against France.
The St Helens mainstay predicts a hostile environment and a truly difficult encounter against a resurgent French national team. And he can’t wait.
“There are going to be a lot of people there, the atmosphere is going to be huge”, Walmsley told the 5 Live Rugby League podcast.
“We’re going to the lion’s cage and we’re going to have a feeling of hostility. But these are the games you really want to play.”
The match will be played on the day the 2021 Rugby Union World Cup should have started, with England initially scheduled to face Samoa at St James’ Park, Newcastle.
But that tournament has now been postponed until next year after Australia and New Zealand withdrew after raising concerns about Covid.
Saturday will also be Shaun Wane’s first official test match in charge of England, after overseeing the 26-24 defeat by the Combined All Stars back in June.
Walmsley, 31, praised the timing of this game and the level of opposition England will face.
“This is what we need,” he added. “We haven’t done a lot of video on the France team yet.
“We’ve definitely looked at each other and we want to make sure that with so many new faces coming onto the team, we’re going to take care of our own protocols and make sure we’re all singing from the same hymn sheet.
“But we know what to expect from France and it is enough to see what the two French clubs have done in the Super League and in the Championship this year to know what kind of team we are going to face.
“They’re going to throw it, they’re going to play with a lot of freedom. They like to unload, they like to throw the ball and challenge you in different areas.
“And when you have a physical pack in the middle, that will definitely be a big challenge, but we are looking forward to it.”
Immediately after helping St Helens seal a double in the Grand Final and Challenge Cup, Walmsley could have been forgiven for wanting to take a break, given the physical toll his body suffers as a ‘wrecking ball’ in the middle. .
But he never hesitated to raise his hand to play this last game of the 2021 season.
“The way things have been over the past 18 months, I feel like I missed a few selections,” Walmsley added. “Obviously the World Cup is not going on this year and we missed the series against Australia last year.
“I wouldn’t say I was in the twilight of my career, but I’m definitely in the back and I want to make sure I can take every possible opportunity to put on the jersey, sing the anthem and play for the England This is the pinnacle. “
After the test in France, England will only play two games before next fall’s World Cup – a mid-season meeting with the All Stars again, then a warm-up against Fiji a few weeks before the tournament.
Walmsley believes that is enough, as long as the game supports the national team.
This year’s All-Star game saw several players withdrawn from their clubs due to injury, and a series of Super League games took place on the same weekend as the international.
“This year for me maybe I’ll get out of the script here, I was disappointed with the way that was put together in terms of the lack of support,” Walmsley said.
“If we want to support our country and support the England team to have a successful World Cup, then we need all the Super League clubs and the RFL to support it and give us a stand-alone game that gives us the opportunity to go there and perform. “
But, for the moment, he relishes the challenge of the French.
“The first win would be good, the performance is very close second,” Walmsley added.
“It’s a big week, Shaun [Wane’s] first full international test match as a coach, and we want to go out and win. But we will also focus on our performance. ”