Countdown for the All Stars

Upfront: The League Express opinion – Mon 14th June 2021

The countdown to England’s first match since November 2018 is well and truly underway.

Shaun Wane has named his latest training squad, adding Gareth Widdop, Joe Westerman, Reece Lyne and Tom Davies.

There’s no doubting Widdop had been in fine fettle for Warrington, while the news has allowed older Wakefield fans to turn back the clock.

For with Westerman, who attributes his bright form to lifestyle changes and Lyne joining Tom Johnstone in Wane’s thoughts, it’s the first time since the days of Dave Topliss, Mick Morgan and Les Sheard in the mid-seventies that Trinity have had a trio of representatives in an England squad.

Meanwhile Catalans are enjoying some welcome positive publicity, with the addition of Davies being followed by the win at Leigh which put the Perpignan side top of Super League.

Next for Wane is Wednesday’s scheduled announcement of his side to take on the Combined Nations All Stars, a resurrection of the old Other Nationalities team which last played 45-and-a-half years ago.

Co-captain of Tim Sheens’ side in the showdown at Warrington a week on Friday, June 25, will be Wigan’s Australian ace Jackson Hastings (pictured), with the pair set to be reunited at Wests Tigers next season.

Hastings, of course, represented Great Britain on tour in 2019 and could yet be involved in the England squad at the World Cup, for which the game at Warrington is a key part of Wane’s preparations.

For the time being, he’s part of the Combined Nations set-up, with his co-captain and the rest of the squad, whose kit for the match has been designed to support the Mose Masoe Foundation, due to be named on Thursday.

The game forms part of an attractive double-header alongside the women’s international between England and Wales, with Craig Richard’s side also building towards the World Cup.

What a shame it clashes with a round of Super League, with three matches due to take place at the same time as the England-Combined Nations clash.

Some might say that both rugby union and cricket do something similar, and that young players will get an opportunity they otherwise wouldn’t have had, but it’s also possible it could lead to club versus country conflict.

And when the sport is desperate for pre-World Cup publicity, why put club matches up against an international?

The clash means unnecessary competition for players, viewership and attention.

Is there any real benefit to going head-to-head?

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