The end of season internationals are done for another year with the Kiwis having shocked the Kangaroos down under, whilst England whitewashed the visiting Tongans, but what are the plans for 2024 and 2025 for Shaun Wane’s men?
It was in the week building up to England’s mid-season international against France that the RFL confirmed the Tonga tour for the end of the 2023 campaign, however with International Rugby League wanting to take a firmer grip of the calendar it means we now know what’s set to happen not just next year, but also in 2025.
For Shaun Wane’s side the plan is that Samoa will return to England for an end of season tour, just like the Tongans did, however there will be far more bad blood on the line. Samoa of course knocked England out of the World Cup last year in devastating fashion thanks to Stephen Crichton’s drop goal, something that head coach Shaun Wane has stated that will ‘live with him forever’.
The Samoans will tour and play three games just as Tonga did however the dates and venues are as yet unconfirmed, whilst Wane also hoped that there would be a mid-season international too. That’s something he confirmed in the post match press conference following England’s win at Headingley on Saturday.
Wane stated: “Well, I’m hoping it’s a mid-season game, then Samoa,” before going on to explain what’s in the pipeline for 2025, adding: “and then I’m hoping there’s an Ashes series in Australia, I hope, and then the World Cup in 2026.”
That’s right, 2025 will see England tour Australia with the Ashes set to revived for the first time since 2003, with England set to tour Australia for the first time since 1992. It would be huge for the international game for the rivalry to be reignited and something that will be in the minds of all fans and players alike.
Despite those plans being outlined by Wane there could actually be an issue with his recent counterpart Kristian Woolf casting a major doubt over Samoa’s tour that is scheduled for less than a year’s time. That’s because Woolf, when asked what advice he’d give to Samoa, told the press that it may not be happening.
Woolf spoke post-game, stating: “I’m not sure if they are (playing England). As I said, we’ve had discussions about playing them over there as well. I don’t think anyone should count that (Samoa’s tour of England) as a given.”
It would be a huge disaster if England are left without an opponent next autumn, particularly as it would be the last competitive tests that they would have prior to the proposed Ashes tour in 2025.
But the bigger question remains about the end of season internationals. In 2024, England are expected to take on Samoa before an Ashes Series down under in 2025. But the series against Samoa has been cast in doubt by the comments of Kristian Woolf revealing talks with Samoa about a Tonga-Samoa series whilst the Pacific Championships are set to be held again with both teams invited.
Serious About Rugby League can now reveal that initial talks were held earlier this year and were positive. That being said, things are still a long way from anything being finalised.
Shaun Wane seemed certain that England would be playing Samoa earlier this year claiming that the two teams would be meeting in 2024 at the Man of Steel awards so the fact talks are still ongoing and not yet finalised is a major concern for organisers.
As is the presence of the Pacific Championships that England continue to be neglected from. Granted they are obviously not a Pacific team but expanding the competition to include the top six teams in the world would make a lot of sense and would finally be an answer to Rugby Union’s Six Nations.