England are set to face Tonga in a historic three match test series, with the island nation becoming the first ever ‘tier two’ nation to tour England.
Former St Helens’ boss Kristian Woolf leads the Tongan side as they travel to England to contest the three matches, the first of which is on Sunday at the spot in which Woolf found his success in England – the Totally Wicked Stadium.
He can expect to face some of his former players as well after Shaun Wane’s squad announcement yesterday saw five St Helens stars called up to represent England including new signing Daryl Clarke, as well as Matty Lees, Morgan Knowles, Tommy Makinson and Jack Welsby.
The latter four all played under Woolf during his successful spell in England and they are all likely to feature on Sunday, however two Saints that didn’t make the squad and won’t partake in the series are Jonny Lomax and Alex Walmsley.
Speaking to the press, England boss Shaun Wane revealed why.
“They’re injury pull-outs,” Wane explained.
He continued: “We have a really good, strict process with our doctor Chris Brooks and he’s put a process in place and dealing with clubs and the clubs have been great in dealing with him and being honest with him so I’m happy with the way it’s gone, I’m happy with the 24 players I’ve got and I’m just looking forward to getting them together in the camp tomorrow.”
Asked whether there was any slim possibility that either Lomax or Walmsley could receive a late call-up to the side, Wane was clear and to the point.
“No, without sounding nasty I’ve forgotten about them now, they can’t play and the only people I’m thinking about is the 24 man squad I’ve picked and then we’ll see how we go next year, in the Samoa game and I’ll deal with that then.”
With no Lomax confirmed and captain George Williams banned for the first two games, it could be a case of Jack Welsby moving into the halves once again, as he did during the World Cup.
Wane has named his squad and it’s not incredibly deep in the half-back positions beyond the suspended Williams, Wigan Warriors’ Harry Smith and Hull KR’s Mikey Lewis, who could debut come Sunday.