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Predicting Shaun Wane’s England 17 for first Tonga test

Shaun Wane named his 19-man squad for Sunday’s first test against Tonga and it’s seen some key men left out including injured NRL star Dom Young and rising Wigan Warriors star Tyler Dupree.

Wane had named his 24-man squad on Tuesday (17th) and surprisingly included captain George Williams despite the Warrington man’s two game suspension.

Consequently he’s now confirmed that Saints star Jack Welsby will skipper England, making him the youngest man to do the job and a sure-fire starter for Sunday, but who will Welsby be starring alongside?

Here is our team for Sunday’s opening fixture.

Full-back: Jack Welsby
A nice and obvious selection for the number one shirt given the lack of other options, Welsby’s confirmed captaincy and the fact he’s Super League’s leading full-back. There was a question of whether he could feature in the halves after doing so at the World Cup but he looks to be the long term number one for England.

Wingers: Tom Johnstone and Tommy Makinson
With Dom Young left out due to injury and Matty Ashton also not making the 19-man squad then the wingers pick themselves. Super League’s top try scorer and Man of Steel nominee Tom Johnstone stars for England for the first time in five years, whilst the ever reliable Makinson will operate on the opposite wing.

Centres: Harry Newman and Toby King
Shaun Wane’s put his faith in Harry Newman by selecting him for this squad despite previous comments from him regarding the Rhinos centres’ attitude. That vocal support indicates he’s likely to start the talented centre whilst Toby King’s form makes him an obvious option to play on the other edge.

Half-backs: Mikey Lewis and Harry Smith
With Williams suspended and Welsby set to feature at full-back then it means there’s a major opportunity for Hull KR’s Mikey Lewis to make his international debut. His maverick style will pair well with Harry Smith whose big game performances have been lauded by Wane.

Props: Tom Burgess and Robbie Mulhern
Burgess looks to be an obvious option in the eight shirt but who partners him is a far more difficult proposition. Robbie Mulhern being selected for the squad after not being in the initial 40 man performance squad indicates he could well start. His physical size advantages over Matty Lees mean he may suit better against the huge Tongan pack.

Hooker: Danny Walker
This position could be the most difficult for Wane to decide. Does he go with the youth of Danny Walker or the experience of Daryl Clark? After Walker’s positive showing against France in the mid-season international then he could well retain his spot with England looking to build for the future.

Second-Rowers: John Bateman and Elliot Whitehead
The position where England have the most depth is certainly the second-row with Grand Final winning captain Liam Farrell set to miss out. Instead the English NRL stars make up much of this forward pack with Bateman and Whitehead both set to do long minutes at an elite level.

Loose Forward: Victor Radley
Victor the Inflictor should take the 13 shirt ahead of Morgan Knowles. The Sydney Rooster is one of the NRL’s best and will likely command this spot in England’s side for a long time, despite England’s incredible depth of Knowles, Smithies, Smith and Minchella at the position.

Substitutes: Mike McMeeken, Morgan Knowles, Chris Hill and Matty Lees
Opting for just one hooker could be a risk but given the size and prominence of the Tongan pack then it may well be the way to go. Packing the bench with heavy hitting forwards such as McMeeken and Hill, alongside the industry of both Lees and Knowles could be key in defeating Kristian Woolf’s men.

18th Man: Daryl Clark
Clark may well find himself as the 18th man as a safety net in case there is an injury throughout the spine in the warm ups. His inclusion means that Liam Farrell would be the incredibly unfortunate man to miss out during this first test but given the fact he was lifting a Grand Final only a week ago, he can certainly be afforded the time away.

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