Shaun Wane selects surprise England captain after George Williams ban

Jack Welsby has been appointed to captain England for the first time in Sunday’s first Test against Tonga in St Helens. This is a surprise move given his relative lack of experience and the fact Wigan Warriors skipper Liam Farrell is in the squad as is John Bateman who captained England in 2021 against France.

Welsby has been chosen by Head Coach Shaun Wane to lead the side in the absence of George Williams, who was named the new national captain earlier this year ahead of the Mid-Season International against France – but has been ruled out of the first two matches of the Tonga series because of suspension.

At the age of 22, Welsby is set to become England’s youngest captain. He will follow in the distinguished footsteps of Andy Farrell, who became the youngest player to captain Great Britain when he led the Lions in Papua New Guinea, Fiji and New Zealand at the age of 21 in 1996.

Welsby will also emulate his former St Helens team-mate James Graham, who was the last Saints player to captain England at the 2010 Four Nations against Australia – and he is relishing the opportunity to do so at his home stadium.

“I’m really excited to be named England captain, and if I’m honest, I’m extremely humbled,” he said. It’s a dream come true.

“It’s a huge accolade for me and to be leading the lads out on Sunday in front of my family is going to be a huge honour. There’s also the added bonus that it will be at St Helens.

“When Shaun came over and spoke to me it took me by surprise and wasn’t what I was expecting at all.”

Shaun Wane said: “It’s a massive privilege for me to give Jack the chance to captain his country.

“Since coming into the England squad last year, I’ve been really impressed with Jack’s performances on the field but his actions and behaviour away from the field have impressed me just as much.

“We have a lot of senior players within the squad who are natural leaders but with the international schedule locked in for the next four years we need to look to the future and Jack is a massive part of that.” 

Welsby made a try-scoring England debut in the huge 60-6 victory over Samoa in last year’s Rugby League World Cup opener against Samoa at St James’ Park. He went on to be an ever-present throughout the tournament before also featuring against France earlier this season.

Welsby’s versatility has seen him named in the Betfred Super League Dream Team in three different positions in three consecutive seasons lifting the Betfred Super League on three occasions with St Helens as well as a Betfred Challenge Cup and a World Club Challenge following a historic win over Penrith Panthers in February.