England v New Zealand: Wayne Bennett adds seven Wigan and Warrington players

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Wayne Bennett has added seven Super League Grand Finalists to his squad from Wigan and Warrington for England’s first Test against New Zealand.

John Bateman, Oliver Gildart, George Williams, Sean O’Loughlin, Sam Tomkins, Daryl Clark and Chris Hill were rested for last week’s warm-up against France.

Jake Connor, Richie Myler and Luke Thompson hope to feature in Hull after impressing in last week’s 44-6 win.

New Zealand are unchanged after beating Australia earlier this month.

How will Bennett approach the Test?

While England have had a mid-season Test in Denver against the Kiwis, which they won, and a lower-key run-out against France at Leigh, this is the first real chance for fans to see their side in full competition since last autumn’s World Cup final defeat by Australia.

Although some star names such as Sam Burgess, Ryan Hall, Gareth Widdop and Kallum Watkins are ruled out by injury, supporters will have the opportunity to see some emerging talents in their place.

While Wakefield winger Tom Johnstone has been omitted from the squad despite his hat-trick against France, Hull FC utility Connor is expected to feature, as could St Helens prop Thompson.

“Jake will be pretty close. He went well against New Zealand in America,” England coach Bennett told BBC Sport.

“He’s quite understated and doesn’t say much in camp but he’s multi-skilled and talented so he is a very good option for us.”

Bennett was satisfied with last week’s win against France, which despite a one-sided look was a useful warm-up for the three-Test series against New Zealand.

“I’m continuously surprised by the skill level, the attitude of everything they do, they’re a pleasure to work with,” Bennett said.

“The best thing about that hit-out was having a game of football, players getting hands back on the ball and getting their defensive techniques better.”

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‘We’ve got to be stronger again’

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New Zealand were beaten in the mid-season Test but the evidence of their improvement under Michael Maguire, the former Wigan and South Sydney Rabbitohs coach, could be seen in the performance and result against the Kangaroos.

“We’ve got to build on that,” he said. “There was a bit of belief shown there and we showed the strength of being able to climb over a very strong Australia team.

“England have been in that arena as well. We’ve got to make sure we are stronger again.”

Maguire and his squad have had the benefit of team bonding on their way to England, stopping over in Dubai.

“It’s enormous,” he said. “The relationships you gain as a coach from getting to understand the players are great and I’ve really enjoyed coaching at this level.

“The players come in knowing how to play different styles. Building a team is all about time together and cohesion, and the connection between players is strong.”

‘It’s a massive honour to put this shirt on’

Should Connor be handed his third cap for England, it would be extra special as the 24-year-old will be on ‘home turf’, and his versatility could be a bonus in getting him into the squad.

“It’s very exciting, what better way to do it than at the KCOM?” Connor said. “I play for Hull so I know what the crowd are like and they get behind their own.

“It’s a massive honour to put this shirt on in any game we play, it’s the top of the game, it’s the elite and I’m honoured to do it.”

England (from): Lomax, McGillvary, Gildart, Percival, Makinson, Williams, Myler, Hill, Hodgson, Graham, Whitehead, G. Burgess, T. Burgess, Bateman, Clark, Connor, O’Loughlin, Thompson, Tomkins.

New Zealand (from): Watene-Zelezniak, Maumalo, Marsters, Manu, Rapana, Johnson, Nikorima, J. Bromwich, Smith, Waerea-Hargreaves, Proctor, Liu, Fisher-Harris, K. Bromwich, Ah Mau, Taupau, Blair, Hughes, Tapine.

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