By JOHN DAVIDSON and DAVID ROGERS
HULL FC fullback Jake Connor is set to be the shock inclusion in the Combined Nations All Stars team to face England this Friday night when it is announced by coach Tim Sheens today.
Sheens has already announced that Jackson Hastings will be one of his co-captains to give the Wigan star the chance to make a point to Shaun Wane following his exclusion from the England squad.
Connor will also be given the same opportunity, and Sheens is excited by the prospect of his combination with Hastings and Aidan Sezer, the Huddersfield halfback who has also been earmarked for a key role alongside Hastings at halfback.
“I said when I took this job that I was excited by the range of players we’d have to choose from, and although the selection process has been complicated – especially by Covid – we’re going to end up with a really exciting group,” said Sheens.
“It was great when we were able to confirm Jackson as co-captain, and he’s really looking forward to playing in the game. It’s the same with Jake Connor, and I’m really happy with the prospect of those two and Aidan Sezer as the spine of our team.”
Sheens says his team will play with attacking flair and adventure, and will pose England plenty of problems at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, saying he will take the shackles off his players.
“It will be a good game, it will be a good intensity,” he said.
“I’m not going to restrict them; we’re going to play with a bit more flair, as I normally coach that way anyway. Hopefully people will see a really good game of football and it will test England, who will need the Test because they just don’t have that quality to draw on like Australia has with State of Origin.
“So for Shaun it’s a great chance to get his guys tested and to get some combinations as he thinks about the World Cup at the end of the year.”
Sheens will only have two training sessions with his players before the match but is unconcerned about the lack of preparation time.
“There’s a number of reasons for them to play well, so it won’t take me long to get them ready in a week,” he said.
“They’re naturally talented, you don’t have to coach them as such, you just manage them, get them sorted with some basic stuff and in a rep team they generally come together.
“You can still feed into them some stuff on set pieces. We’ve got to come up with a basic language for the team to remember.
“We’ll play to our strengths and hopefully England’s weaknesses. But it’s there to help Shaun get a good game.
“I’m looking forward to putting up a strong side against Shaun and I’m pretty sure we’ll be fired up enough to win. For us it’s a big game.”
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