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Bateman in line to captain England RL team

After missing out earlier this year, ex-Canberra star John Bateman hopes he finally gets the nod as England captain ahead of Saturday’s rugby league Test against France.

England coach Shaun Wane will name a replacement skipper at training on Wednesday for the international in Perpignan after ex-New Zealand Warriors flyer Sam Tomkins went down with injury.

Bateman was among the captaincy candidates to succeed the retired Sean O’Loughlin at the start of the year but lost out to Tomkins for the mid-season clash with the Combined Nations All Stars.

After being reunited with his former Wigan coach Wane in the England camp, Bateman is keeping his fingers crossed he will be offered the national reins.

“He’s not said anything yet,” said Bateman, who helped steer Canberra to the 2019 NRL grand final.

“He likes to keep his cards close to his chest. As long as I’m playing, I’m not too fussed.

“If he said it, though, 100 per cent I’d be buzzing. You dream about it but you don’t think it’s going to come true – it’d be alright for a lad from Bradford, wouldn’t it?”

Bateman – who ended months of speculation when he left Canberra at the end of 2020 and returned to Wigan – is in line for the captaincy along with St Helens’ Jonny Lomax.

The international will officially kick off preparations for next year’s World Cup for hosts England under Wane who replaced Wayne Bennett as coach.

France will announce their captain on Thursday when coach Laurent Frayssinous finalises his team.

Former Catalans Dragons stand-off Tony Gigot, now with Toulouse, is thought to be favourite to land the role with Ben Garcia, Julian Bousquet and Theo Fages all ruled out through injury.

England’s NRL contingent including Josh Hodgson are not available due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, ensuring the hooker role is up for grabs with the likes of Leeds’ Kruise Leeming, Castleford’s Paul McShane and Warrington’s Danny Walker in the frame.

“England as a team throughout the years – and I’m probably biased – has been the strongest in the hooking position,” Leeming said.

“We’ve never struggled against any other nation in that department, whether it be James Roby, Luke Robinson, Josh Hodgson, Daryl Clark – those names are regarded as the best hookers in the world never mind Super League.”

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