Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
3 days ago
Coach Tony Smith, as expected, rests all 15 Leeds and St Helens players from last Saturday's Super League Grand Final while Warrington prop Adrian Morley is still recovering from a stomach muscle injury.
Morley, who is expected to be fit for England's opening World Cup match against Papua New Guinea in Townsville on October 25, would have been a strong candidate to captain Friday's team in the absence of the rested Jamie Peacock.
That honour now goes to his Warrington team-mate Martin Gleeson, who will captain a team for the first time and also start the match at stand-off in partnership with Salford teenager Richard Myler.
"Martin is just about the most experienced person in the squad and he's been leading the team naturally in the last few weeks," said Smith.
"I like to sit back and see who the natural leaders are and he's stepped up to the mark. It's a mark of his maturity and how far he's come.
"I'm sure he'd be the first to admit he's had a couple of chequered markers in the past but he's well past that and thoroughly deserves the captaincy."
Gleeson, 28, who was once banned from the game for betting on the outcome of a match involving his team, admitted he is a changed man.
"It's a real honour to be appointed captain," he said. "I've never done it before but I have matured over the last couple of years and I do take a senior role on the training field.
"I see it as a natural progression and I will relish it. I just want to put in a real good performance and set the standards and hopefully take that to Australia."
Friday's match will provide much-needed game time for England's World Cup squad members whose clubs failed to make the play-offs, while the rest have the motivation of being on standby for Australia in case of injuries.
"It's crucial for some of the players who have not played for six or seven weeks," said Smith. "They need a game of rugby league before they get to Townsville.
"It's also crucial for the development of our young people. We used to have an England Under-23s and it seems like a massive jump from under-18s to open age."
There are first caps for Harlequins duo Louis McCarthy-Scarsbrook and Tony Clubb, who are genuine products of the London development system, as well as the 18-year-old Myler, who is seen as a star of the future.
Wales go into this Gillette Fusion international match at Doncaster