Sam Tomkins to start for England vs New Zealand with Wigan team-mate George Williams

England will go with an all-Wigan half-back pairing of George Williams and Sam Tomkins for the first Test against New Zealand on Saturday.

Head coach Wayne Bennett announced his line-up to the media at the captain’s run at the KCOM Stadium in Hull on Friday morning, with the major talking point being the recall of Tomkins after a four-year absence in an unaccustomed role.

Jonny Lomax has got the nod over Tomkins at full-back, while the other eye-catching selection is that of Hull utility back Jake Connor at centre ahead of Mark Percival.

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Although his preferred position is stand-off, Connor is confident he can justify his selection in the threequarters, where he will go up against another rookie in Joseph Manu.

“I’ve played a lot of centre in my time,” he said. “It’s not new to me. I’ll try to do the same job that I’ve always done.”

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The only debutant on Saturday will be Wigan centre Oliver Gildart, who said: “It’s not sunk in yet, I think the nerves will hit me tomorrow building up to the game.

“Obviously it’s all new to me so I’m kind of just taking it in my stride. It’s a massive honour, there’s some great players in this squad and I’m really privileged to get my chance.”

England team to face New Zealand

Lomax (St Helens); McGillvary (Huddersfield), Gildart (Wigan), Connor (Hull), Makinson (St Helens); Williams (Wigan), Tomkins (Wigan); Hill (Warrington), Hodgson (Canberra), Graham (St George Illawarra), Whitehead (Canberra), Bateman (Wigan), O’Loughlin (Wigan, capt).

Interchange: Clark (Warrington), T Burgess (South Sydney), G Burgess (South Sydney), Thompson (St Helens).

New Zealand team to face England

Watene-Zelezniak (Penrith, capt); Maumalo (NZ Warriors), Marsters (Wests Tigers), Manu (Sydney Roosters), Rapana (Canberra); Johnson (NZ Warriors), Nikorima (Brisbane); Bromwich (Melbourne), Smith (Melbourne), Waerea-Hargreaves (Sydney Roosters), Proctor (Gold Coast), Liu (Sydney Roosters), Fisher-Harris (Penrith).

Interchange: Bromwich (Melbourne), Ah Mau (St George Illawarra), Taupau (Manly), Blair (NZ Warriors).

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