England Men Head Coach Shaun Wane has named a new-look 19-player squad for Saturday’s mid-season international against France at Warrington’s Halliwell Jones Stadium.
With only Ben Currie, Kai Pearce-Paul, Jack Welsby and captain George Williams having previously represented England in a Test Match, as many as 15 players could earn their first England caps.
Betfred Super League leaders Wigan Warriors have six players included in Wane’s squad and five of them – Ethan Havard, Toby King, Harry Smith, Morgan Smithies and Jake Wardle – could all receive their first caps. Wardle, a try-scorer for England in last season’s non-Test status international against the Combined Nations All Stars, has scored four tries in ten games this year for his new club.
Williams and Currie are joined by uncapped Warrington teammates Matty Ashton, James Harrison, Matty Nicholson, Josh Thewlis and Danny Walker. Four of the previously uncapped Wolves have impressed for the Knights in recent seasons whilst Harrison has been a standout at the Halliwell Jones Stadium since his 2022 move from Betfred Championship side Featherstone Rovers.
Also pushing for first international caps are Hull Kingston Rovers duo Jez Litten and Mikey Lewis, both of whom featured for Paul Anderson’s England Knights in wins against France and Scotland last year.
Ash Handley and Tom Holroyd are included from Leeds Rhinos, whilst Tyler Dupree’s impressive form with Salford Red Devils earns him a call-up. World Club Champions St Helens have a sole representative in the shape of full-back Jack Welsby, Super League’s Young Player of the Year for the past two seasons.
After this news, fans have taken to social media react. With 14 players reportedly withdrawn yesterday, many of them the biggest names in the league, one fan said it was a “disservice” to the international game.
Probably more than enough to beat a second string French team. But a huge disservice to the international game and it's supposed importance to the sport strategically.
Massive backwards step that administrators should be held to account on.
— @andypreston (@cockwomble12) April 25, 2023
Meanwhile, one Warrington fan was proud to see his club lead the way.
no coincidence there’s more warrington players than any other club.
great to see the leading club of super league and international rugby league
— Toby (@toby_2332) April 25, 2023
Others praised the decision to turn to young players.
Is what it is… players for the next world cup no point going with the oldies
— Bernie (@MonsieurBernie) April 25, 2023
This has led to excitement amongst some fans.
So many big names missing! Only good thing is that it’ll give some lads, that usually wouldn’t have a chance, a good run out. Looking forward to it 👏🏼
— James (@James69872685) April 25, 2023
One fan pointed out that Shaun Wane could name a starting 13 from Wigan and Warrington alone.
13 of the 19 are from Warrington and Wigan 😂
— Sam Jones (@JONESYLFC6) April 25, 2023
However, Wigan fans asked where Liam Farrell was after he wasn’t one of the 14 players reportedly withdrawn yesterday.
Where’s Farrell? https://t.co/KF3VNJSmay
— Gareth (@AfcWWRL) April 25, 2023
One fan meanwhile had sympathy for Shaun Wane for being called out for picking Wigan players when plenty of other options have pulled out due to injury concerns.
Yesterday it was reported 14 players had been withdrawn from the squad due to injuries, suspensions etc and now the squad is announced Wane is again being called biased for selecting Wigan players from the options he had left. The poor bloke can’t win. https://t.co/pYbmcTJv6b
— Michael Lavelle (@mikelavelle93) April 25, 2023