The Garry Schofield Column: The England players who impressed me in Tonga series

SO it’s a well-deserved 3-0 win for England against Tonga, and I’m not sure how many people would have seen it coming so convincingly before the series started.

I’m glad we’ve got proper Test rugby back, if a bit disappointed by the tourists, and hopefully we’ll see Samoa here next year and we’ll get a stiffer challenge from them.

That’s what’s needed ahead of the Ashes series Down Under in 2025 and the World Cup the year after, when hopefully, after missing out last time, we’ll make the final at the very least.

New Zealand’s terrific win over Australia in Hamilton at the weekend shows that the Kangaroos can be overcome, and hopefully we’ll build on the foundations laid by Shaun Wane and his side.

As I said, I think Tonga have been a let-down, and Kristian Woolf will have plenty to ponder as he reviews the trio of games.

As a former tourist myself, it’s usual that you get better as the series progresses, but for me, Tonga got steadily worse.

At Headingley, they looked to be lacking purpose, enthusiasm, aggression and creativity, and those NRL coaches checking up on their players won’t have been too pleased with what they saw.

But take nothing away from England, and it was great to see so much passion in those jerseys.

They followed Waney’s game plan well, getting numbers in the tackle and slowing Tonga down, and I thought all those who featured made a contribution.

Harry Smith brought his club form onto the international stage, Mikey Lewis took his opportunity in those first two Tests, and both Tom Burgess and Daryl Clark caught my eye.

Heading to Oz

I ALWAYS enjoy watching the NRL – and there will be added interest next  season with at least four new English recruits.

We already knew about Will Pryce and Kai Pearce-Paul joining Newcastle Knights and Lewis Murphy heading to Sydney Roosters.

Now Morgan Smithies is swapping the cherry of white of Wigan for the green of Canberra Raiders, while Riley Dean is leaving Warrington, apparently bound for North Queensland Cowboys.

Canberra, of course, have had a number of English players over recent years, with Elliott Whitehead still there.

That will provide a familiar face for England team-mate Smithies as he settles to life in Australia’s capital city and the challenge of the game’s most intense competition.

The Green Machine are certainly getting a tackling machine, and it will be interesting to see how Ricky Stuart tries to further develop Smithies’ skills in that key loose-forward role.

Going to the NRL is an amazing opportunity for any young English player and I wish them all the best.

Hopefully all who go will flourish, and with Murphy, who is a really exciting talent, I just hope he has no follow-on issues over the knee injury, which denied us the chance to enjoy another season of him entertaining us in a Wakefield shirt – and who knows whether Trinity would have stayed up with him in the side?

And with a bit of luck, the Roosters will make better use of him than they did of Ryan Hall, who was starved of decent service during his time with the Tricolours.

What a waste of a great player and great finisher.

From one Danny to another

I’M delighted Danny Ward is staying in Rugby League as assistant coach of Hull KR, if still disappointed by Danny McGuire’s departure from the Robins.

I’m not sure the reason for his exit will ever be made public, but it seems strange to let go of such a talented bloke after his impressive service there, including as caretaker coach, and after an encouraging first season for Willie Peters. 

At least he also has another gig, alongside Craig Lingard at Castleford, where Danny Ward spent the last six games of the season at the helm, with Linners as his assistant. Quite a merry-go-round!

We’re talking three good young English operators here, and Hull KR have got themselves an experienced coach who I think will make a big contribution as they try to push on ever further.

He also likes to promote an entertaining style of rugby – and that will please a knowledgeable set of fans.