England boss Shaun Wane has named his 19-man squad for the third and final test against Tonga this weekend and it’s seen wholesale changes from the squad last weekend, notably the omission of Hull KR half-back Mikey Lewis.
Lewis’ absence comes as England skipper George Williams is again available following his time on the proverbial naughty step. Other key names in the squad this week are Morgan Smithies and Josh Thewlis, who were called into the wider 24-man squad earlier this week.
With these changes in mind, we’ll see a different line-up to the one that has overcome Tonga in the first two Tests, with head coach Wane likely to field something close to the team listed below as his side look to secure a series whitewash.
Full-back: Jack Welsby
St Helens’ Jack Welsby is the obvious choice at full-back this week. He has captained the side in Williams’ absence, and has played well in tough conditions in the back field. He looks to have cemented himself into the number one shirt for some time after his success this series.
Wingers: Matty Ashton and Tom Johnstone
The wing pairing from last week should keep their places this week. Johnstone has been a constant threat on the left edge this series, and grabbed a double at St Helens. His partner on the other side Ashton also nabbed himself a brace last weekend in Huddersfield, so keeping these two try-scoring wingers in place is an easy decision for Shaun Wane.
Centres: Harry Newman and John Bateman
Leeds Rhinos centre Harry Newman has grown a lot this series, and looked a lot more comfortable in the three shirt last week. However, the injury to Toby King leaves Wane without a second recognised centre; so it’s anyone’s guess who will fill that void. Bateman would be our choice having played there previously and being the sort of general dogsbody that will play wherever is required, but fellow second-rowers Elliot Whitehead and Ben Currie wouldn’t be a surprise choice.
Half-backs: George Williams and Harry Smith
Probably the biggest selection headache Wane had this week was his half-back combination. Mikey Lewis can feel hard done by to be omitted from the squad this week after his two great performances so far this series; but Wane has always said Williams would come straight back into the side, and this pairing have already been tried and tested in the mid-season international against France.
Props: Tom Burgess and Matty Lees
The prop partnership of Burgess and Lees will likely stay in tact this week. Both players have brought plenty of physicality in the first two tests, and Wane will want more of the same from them this weekend.
Hooker: Daryl Clark
St Helens bound Clark has started in the nine shirt in the first two tests, and will likely keep it for the last match. He has done exactly what has been needed of him so far this series, and whilst Danny Walker will want more game time, Clark should keep his starting shirt.
Second-Rowers: Ben Currie and Elliot Whitehead
NRL star Elliot Whitehead has been a busy man so far this series, and looks set for another busy day on Saturday. He will likely retain his place whilst Warrington’s Ben Currie could partner him given John Bateman’s shift into the centres. Equally it could well be either Currie or Whitehead who takes on the number four shirt.
Loose Forward: Morgan Smithies
Canberra Raiders bound Morgan Smithies has only just entered the squad this week, but he will likely start in the 13 shirt in the absence of Victor Radley and Morgan Knowles. Smithies has impressed in Super League this year, and with the added emotion of playing his final game on English soil for a while he could be in line for a big game.
Substitutes: Danny Walker, Tyler Dupree, Robbie Mulhern and Mike McMeeken
The interchanges for England have added plenty of impact in both tests this series, and this weekend should be no different. Tyler Dupree and Robbie Mulhern will have something to prove after not being picked in the first two tests. Mike McMeeken has been one of the standout players so far this series, and could continue this on Saturday, and Danny Walker should keep his place in the side despite his low minutes so far.
18th man: Chris Hill
Hill has had a good series so far, but given the series is already wrapped up Wane may opt to move him down to 18th man and let Tyler Dupree and Robbie Mulhern have a shot.