England put on their most impressive performance of the series today at Headingley as they beat a mistake riddled Tonga 26-4 to tie up the series by a score of 3-0.
Prior to the first test it was expected that the series could or maybe even would go down to the wire and in spite of a close and physical contest at St Helens’ Totally Wicked Stadium, England were rarely troubled throughout the series. In part that came through the lack of Tongan threat via their halves, but conversely England’s halves were excellent throughout the series.
Testament to the impressive performances of the halves was the fact that Mikey Lewis earned a Man of the Match performance on debut in game one, whilst Harry Smith was named as the Nan Halafihi Medalist, awarded to the player of the series.
The number of chances England created through their halves as well as the impeccable kicking game that helped put Tonga in a constant territorial battle in conditions that didn’t favour them showed the importance of a strong six and seven.
However Shaun Wane has now claimed that Mikey Lewis and Harry Smith entered the series as halves “four and five” in terms of their ranking within the English game. Wane spoke with the media following the victory at Headingley outlining how his side had secured the clean sweep despite not being at full strength.
“Unbelievably proud of what we’ve done, how we’ve done it,” explained Wane, adding: “We’ve had a few players pull out so we could have turned out a stronger squad, and so could they.
“But you look at Mikey and Harry, they’re number four and five, well they were, not anymore. You’ve got Johnny and George and Lewis, so if you look at the last two tests for Mikey and three for Harry I think, they’ve been outstanding, they’ve done really good things and they’ll go from strength to strength.”
Given Smith’s imperious end to the season domestically and his impressive international series many have now assumed he’d be a nailed on starter, something that Wane refuted when asked if the Wigan man was nailed on.
“No, no he’s not,” Wane declared.
“He’s really good but he’s obviously got things he needs to improve on but I’m really happy with what he’s done. I won’t say he’s nailed his case for automatic halfback.”
“He’s going really really well, I’m happy. Mikey is too and Lewis Dodd is a good player so we’re in really really good shape and George is up there as one of the best in the world, so once he gets a few games under his belt George he’ll kick on. I’m really really happy with what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.”
England won’t regroup again until next year with the only confirmed clash so far being the end of season test series against Samoa, however Wane revealed he was hoping for a mid-season international meaning we may only have to wait six months to find out who truly is his preferred half-back pairing.