England head coach Shaun Wane has called for more options to emerge for his World Cup squad next year.
Wane will take charge of his first major tournament next autumn when the rescheduled World Cup takes place, and the host nation will be aiming to knock holders Australia off their perch.
The delay of 12 months has given the former Wigan boss more time to prepare for the challenge of taking on the world’s best and he has demanded that more talent capable of playing for England emerges in that time, especially in the spine of the team.
“The one thing I’m saying to our staff is I want more players,” said Wane. “I want more halves, I want more sixes, I want more nines. At the minute I’ve got three or four nines and I want more. I want to make tough decisions, and that’s our job.
“The Super League clubs are doing a great job. You look at young kids coming through like Mikey Lewis, Will Pryce, all those players are another year older, another year more mature, their bodies are more mature, they’re doing weight programmes with their clubs so they’re physically ready.
“We’re getting more players putting their hand up for selection, but on the other hand I want more. That’s our challenge to coaches and Super League clubs. We all want more talent coming through.”
The flipside of the postponement is that the older heads have been around longer as well as the newer ones, with captain James Roby already retiring from international duty following the postponement.
However, for Wane the positives of seeing new prospects develop and reach international standard outweighs the risk of some of the established stars being past their best by next year.
“I’m absolutely gutted that I haven’t got the chance to coach James Roby if I’m honest, from a selfish point of view, because I’ve always rated him as a player,” he said. “I’ve coached against him many times, but unfortunately I never got the chance.
“But that gives a chance to another nine coming through. Danny Walker, one of the kids who travelled with us to France. Connor Wrench travelled with us to France, Matty Lees, all those young players are ready to step up.”
Wane has also called for the standard to rise in Super League in order to give his squad the best possible preparation for taking on the leading nations at the World Cup.
“The standard was great last year, and it finished off with a great final, but it has to get better,” said the England boss.
“If I was still coaching at Super League level, I’d want more intensity in games, more Test match (-level) games, less penalties, more set-for-set, what’s going to prepare us for international rugby.
“That’s what we got last year, but I’m never satisfied. I always want better, I always want a bit more, and every Super League head coach will want the same. They’ll want a better-quality game, and that’s going to help the international game.”
Approaching two years in the job, Wane has only had a couple of fixtures in charge and a limited number of training sessions, largely due to the impacts of the Covid pandemic.
Now with the countdown back on to the start of the World Cup in October, Wane has asked for the backing of every Super League club in giving him as much time as possible with the candidates for his squad.
“What I will do this year is have as much contact time as the Super League clubs will allow us to have, and I know the majority of Super League clubs have been great,” he said.
“They’ve bought into it and they know what we need to have a successful World Cup campaign, and I’ve got the backing of everybody. The more contact time I have (the better).
“I think the players have enjoyed their time with us in the England camp with the French game, so I just want to encourage every Super League club to get behind us and make sure there’s as much contact time as we can have.”
He welcomed the fact that the earlier Grand Final date in 2022 provides space for England’s friendly against Fiji, scheduled for this year, to still take place, and expects a mid-season international as well.
Wane said: “Whether it’s the All Stars, whether it’s the French, one of the home countries; as long as we get together and we have time on the field then I’m happy.”