It’s safe to say the vast majority of England supporters weren’t overly enthusiastic yesterday.
Despite a 30-10 win at the expense of France and a blistering opening 20 minutes in which England effectively won the game thanks to tries from Liam Farrell, Tom Davies, Tommy Makinson and John Bateman, the vast majority felt the win was decidedly lukewarm and that more work was needed before next autumn’s World Cup.
That said, it’s safe to say Shaun Wane shared that sentiment as he noted after the game the lessons his England side would need to learn in the next 12 months to be true competitors in next year’s tournament. But there is a widespread fear amongst the coaching staff, fans and even journalists that England will be given insufficient time to learn those lessons with only a further two fixtures set to take place before the World Cup.
England are expected to take on the Combined Nations All Stars mid-season as they did last year before supposedly taking on Fiji in a pre-tournament friendly as was planned this year until the World Cup itself was postponed.
If England had the time to develop as a team, there’s few coaches England would want in charge more than Wane. The ex-Wigan boss evolved into a superb knock-out rugby coach in his time at the DW Stadium making him the ideal boss for next year’s World Cup. But even more importantly he developed an understanding of when to peak at the right time to win the biggest prizes.
In 2012, his Wigan side conquered all before them as they romped to the League Leaders’ Shield but semi-final defeats to Leeds in both the Challenge Cup and play-offs saw them end the season without a major final win.
It’s safe to say he learnt from those shortcomings in 2013 as the Warriors peaked at the right end of the season to win both major finals despite finishing fourth in the table. From there he would repeat the trick again and again as the Warriors won the 2016 and 2018 Grand Finals despite finishing second on both occasions.
Thus, it’s clear Wane knows how to develop a side and get them ready to peak at the right time so that they come away with the glory even turning Wigan’s 2016 season around after a thumping defeat at the hands of Wakefield. So, it stands to reason that if he can oversee that turn around in such a short space of time, he can take England to World Cup glory from where they are now within the next 12 months.
In the last World Cup, England proved that they can challenge the Australians in the biggest game and were a whisker away from ending a 45-year wait for World Cup glory as they lost 6-0 to their Australian cousins.
Some of that team still remains whilst being complimented by younger stars full of exciting talent. In Tommy Makinson and John Bateman we have two players widely considered world class whilst the selection of halves Wane has to choose from certainly prompts excitement. All Wane has to do is find the right combination and perhaps World Cup glory is not quite as unlikely as some would have you believe at this moment in time.
To make a long story short, England have a host of quality players at their disposal including the core of one of Super League’s greatest ever sides in the shape of St Helens and a coach who has proven time and time again that he can get his sides to peak at just the right time to claim silverware. So, as our wait for World Cup glory ticks into it’s 50th year, perhaps it’s written in the stars for Wane and his side to prove the doubters wrong.