The dust is beginning to settle on England’s series whitewash of Tonga following yesterday’s 26-4 victory at Headingley and whilst Shaun Wane has declared that all his players were “unbelievable”, who were the true stand-outs across the series?
Wane had named a 24-man squad for the historic series, one that featured a blend of youth and experience whilst some big names also missed out through injury. During the three game series he also called up a further two players creating a 26-man squad and here’s how Serious About Rugby League rates them throughout the series.
Matty Ashton – 8
Warrington’s winger didn’t feature in the first test but following Tommy Makinson’s injury he stepped into the role brilliantly. Bagging a brace in game two and then finishing in the corner courtesy of a smart Harry Newman offload yesterday.
John Bateman – 8
Bateman was incredible in the Headingley victory with the two first half tries surely attributed to his excellent offload skills and refusal to go down in the tackle. He was solid in the first two games being very industrious but Headingley proved why he earns the big bucks in the NRL.
Tom Burgess – 7
The last remaining Burgess, Tom fared well against a big Tonga pack. The questions over this series revolved around Tonga’s size and thanks to the work of Burgess and others that threat was nullified.
Daryl Clark – 7
There’d been a question from some about who would start at nine but Wane backed the experience of Clark and was rarely let down. In a series that saw England win through controlled play Clark was at the heart of that.
Ben Currie – 8
He might have only played one game and he might have been forced to play out of position but Ben Currie didn’t look at all out of place yesterday. Shifted into the centres to cover for Toby King, Currie bagged himself a try and an assist and showed what an underrated player he is.
Tyler Dupree – 5
Dupree sadly scores just five through a lack of game time. Only afforded a substitute role in game three the Wigan man didn’t set the world alight when he came on. He will however come on massively for the experience of being in camp for this series, and England and Wigan will certainly reap the rewards next year.
Liam Farrell – N/A
Wigan’s Grand Final winning captain played approximately five minutes of this series which seems harsh given the incredible form he carried into it. Used from the bench in game two Wane revealed it had been intended he get more minutes but Farrell was sadly afforded just a handful.
Chris Hill – 8
Plenty of fans rolled their eyes at the inclusion of Chris Hill in the squad for this series with lots of calls for Wane to back the youth instead, however Hill more than proved his worth. Against a physical pack his ability to grind out metres, always find his front and then play the ball quickly is invaluable. Perhaps best in test two at his home stadium.
Tom Johnstone – 9
Mr Consistent – Tom Johnstone has had an incredible season for club and now country. Game one saw him bag a brace in just his second England appearance, almost five years after his first. It wasn’t just the tries he scored though but those he prevented, and vitally the metres made. A brilliant series to cap off a brilliant season.
Toby King – 7
Injured for the final game King had already helped his nation win the series with solid performances in the first two clashes. His try opened the scoring in the series just five minutes in and from there on in he looked assured and confident.
Morgan Knowles – 6
The St Helens star was another who picked up an injury, only featuring from the bench in the first game before having to withdraw from camp however he went about his work as he does for his club – tough tackling, hard working and dependable.
Matty Lees – 6
Another Saints man who performed as he does for his club, bringing that grit and determination. Lees was one of Wane’s go-to men throughout the series and he would have perhaps scored higher if not for his petulant yellow card in the Headingley test, the Tongans seemingly under his skin with their heavy hits from kick off.
Mikey Lewis – 8
As international debuts go you won’t get many better than Mikey Lewis in game on at the Totally Wicked Stadium. Hull KR’s playmaker stepped up and shone bagging a Man of the Match performance. Quieter in game two and then dropped for captain George Williams in game three, there’s certainly more to come for Mikey Lewis in an England shirt.
Tommy Makinson – 6
The Saints winger only managed game one following a wrist injury but he carried well out of territory, doing exactly what is expected of the modern winger. He may have a fight to win his jersey back though following Matty Ashton’s impressive performances.
Mike McMeeken – 8
England’s enforced during this series. McMeeken is a mountain of a man and he used his side to bully the bully that was the Tongan pack. Very little to ever criticise him over with excellent carrying and tackling, a man who fits the mould of prop that Shaun Wane wants.
Robbie Mulhern – 5
Leigh’s Mulhern had to wait until game three to get any game time and starting in the unnatural position of loose forward he struggled at times. He was the victim of a huge hit that dislodged the ball at one point and sadly the Leopards’ star couldn’t replicate his club form.
Harry Newman – 9
Considering that just over a month ago nobody expected Newman to be in this squad given Shaun Wane’s comments about the Leeds centre, it’s incredible to think what a turnaround he’s had. Impressive and without much error in the first two tests, he came alive at Headingley scoring his first international try and producing a lovely offload for Ashton’s try. As Shaun Wane has said: “Leeds have got a great player on their hands”.
Victor Radley – 7
One of the NRL contingent for England and Radley fared well although not quite living up to his nickname of Victor the inflictor. Instead it was his passing game from loose forward that stood out, the cut-out pass to set up Toby King in game one being a true sign of his class.
Harry Smith – 9
Short of scoring a wonder try of his own Smith was close to perfect this series. His goal kicking has drastically improved whilst his in play kicking is among the best in world rugby. A true coming of age series for the Wigan playmaker.
Morgan Smithies and Josh Thewlis (Late Call-Ups) – N/A
Despite being called up for the final test neither Smithies or Thewlis played, however it highlights that they will be part of Shaun Wane’s plans for the future.
Danny Walker – 7
Perhaps unlucky not to get the start however Walker did what was asked when coming off the bench. Against tiring Tongan legs he kept the ruck as fast as it could be and used his pace advantage over Daryl Clark to work dangerously from dummy-half. England’s hooker for the future.
Jack Welsby – 8
Welsby stepped up to skipper the side in the first two games and did an incredible job, his cut-out pass in game one for Tom Johnstone highlighting why he has twice been a Man of Steel nominee. Perhaps the conditions didn’t favour his style of play as he was quieter in games two and three, but England have got a superstar on their hands.
Elliott Whitehead – 8
The Canberra Raiders star will now hang up his boots and he can do so following a series victory and a final game in which he registered yet another try. Whitehead was brilliant in the series and there’s no doubt he could go further, but he bows out now allowing the younger stars to take over and having had a stellar international career.
George Williams – 5
Williams was made to wait till the final game for his appearance in this series following his controversial two game ban and sadly it just wasn’t his game. There’s no doubt that on his day Williams is among the best in the world but yesterday wasn’t his day.
Dom Young – N/A
English fans didn’t get to see this immensely exciting winger with Young hospitalised upon arriving in England following an infection that had threatened his brain. He’ll next be seen representing Sydney Roosters in 2024 after recovery and much deserved rest.