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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Mark Staniforth

George Williams and Ash Handley inspire England to thumping win over France

PA Wire

George Williams and Ash Handley both helped themselves to hat-tricks as England scored 11 tries in an overwhelming 64-0 win over feeble France in Warrington.

Home favourite Williams marked his debut as captain with a dominant display, playing the crucial ball in all three of Handley’s efforts, while the Leeds winger returned the favour in a scintillating two-man show.

Danny Walker scored twice, while Jake Wardle, Kai Pearce-Paul and Harry Smith also crossed and Smith added 18 points with the boot, as Shaun Wane’s new-look side oozed potential ahead of a much tougher test against Tonga in the autumn.

Williams, Pearce-Paul and Jack Welsby were the only survivors from November’s World Cup semi-final heartbreak to feature in Wane’s 18-man squad as the England coach sets his sights firmly on the build-up to the 2025 World Cup in France.

Of his raft of debutants, Wigan duo Morgan Smithies and Ethan Havard also shone, but France, beaten 42-18 by England in the second round of the World Cup in November, were dreadful, singularly failing to threaten the England line and seldom mustering a move into their attacking half.

England took less than five minutes to get their assault under way when a neat kick by Williams, the lynchpin of Warrington’s remarkable Super League resurgence this season, sent Handley scampering over in the right corner.

Williams sparked the move that led to England’s second, spraying the ball out to Jake Wardle, who, showing no ill-effects from an earlier challenge from Paul Marcon that sent the pair spiralling through the advertising boards on to the concrete concourse, neatly switched inside to send Smith clear.

Smithies’ short pass sent Walker in for his first after 25 minutes, then Walker’s pinpoint 40-20 set up Welsby, reverting to his favoured full-back role in the absence of World Cup captain Sam Tomkins, to send Wardle over on the left.

Welsby proved pivotal once again five minutes before the break when he burst through the flat-footed French rearguard and sent the always-ready Williams over under the posts.

Williams’ looping ball out wide found Handley, who cut inside Marcon to touch down for his second, and the other side of the interval the Leeds man returned the favour by pouncing into space on the right flank and feeding Williams the simplest of opportunities.

As France wilted England stepped up the pace, Handley grasping a Williams kick in the corner then Pearce-Paul barging clear, again prompted by Williams carving open the opposing defence.

Williams completed his hat-trick after a break down the flank by Handley, then Walker went over for his second, Williams duly stepping up to take over kicking duties and wrap up a thoroughly convincing victory.

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