FIVE weeks out from the kick-off of the three-match England v Tonga Test series, England coach Shaun Wane will now look to lock in a 24-man squad.
Unlike the Tongan squad, England will have just eight days as a team to prepare for the first Test, given that the Super League Grand Final will be held just one week prior.
And Wane admits he will need to ease his side into training following the Grand Final.
“It will be an easy week after the Grand Final for most of the players and then they’ll be ready for that first Test,” he said.
“After that we can ramp up training a bit, do a bit of wrestle and make sure we are really prepared.”
Without revealing who would make the final cut in his squad, Wane did give some hints about who would be in the running while saying he had been keeping in close contact with English players in the NRL.
“I’ve had a chat to all the NRL players; I try to speak to them as much as possible and stay in touch and watch all the games,” he said.
“I want someone who is really proud to be an Englishmen and to represent our country, so I’m always open-minded and I’ll pick the best 24 that I think can win us three Tests.
“Dom (Young) is playing really well in the NRL; he didn’t have one of the best games in our semi-final when we got beaten, so there are some things he has had to improve on. He’s still very young.
“His form in the NRL – in a really good competition – has been outstanding, as has Herbie Farnworth’s.”
Wane said he had been speaking with Victor Radley and confirmed Elliott Whitehead would be a part of the squad.
Wane also touted Jack Welsby as a member of the spine before mentioning other players who might partner George Williams in the halves.
“Jack Welsby is a good Rugby League player whether he plays in the halves or fullback,” he said.
“Jonny (Lomax) always delivers, while I like some things that Mikey (Lewis) does. I also like some things that Harry (Smith) does at Wigan but my standards are very high.
“I’ve had some difficult conversations with players and they appreciate it, I think, but it’s about keeping them grounded and a Test match is different to a club game.
“The desire that players have shown me to play for England makes me so proud.”
England is expecting to face a big mobile Tongan pack and Wane admits they will be a challenge to contain.
“Your one-on-one defence needs to be good, your detail is the key and I mean detail in contact and wrestle,” he said.
“They’re very athletic and they’re far bigger than us, so we need a certain technique to be very good to beat Tonga.”