Ethan Havard keen to keep England place after starring on debut against France

Self-belief and hard work hoisted Ethan Havard into the England squad for Saturday’s crushing 64-0 win over France in Warrington and the Wigan man is intent on keeping his place during the long build-up to the 2025 World Cup.

Havard was one of 13 international debutants in Shaun Wane’s squad for the one-sided mid-season international, and the 6ft 4ins Wigan forward marked a typically muscular first appearance by touching down for his debut England try midway through the second half.

Along with emerging Wigan club-mates Morgan Smithies and Harry Smith, who also made strong debuts against the outclassed French, 22-year-old Havard is at the centre of a group in whom Wane is clearly prepared to place his long-term trust.

England v France – Men’s Mid-Season International – Halliwell Jones Stadium
Morgan Smithies (pictured) set up a try for Wigan club-mate Ethan Havard (Martin Rickett/PA)

“The players who played against France really stamped their names on the positions, and depending how they continue to play for their Super League teams, they’ve got a really good chance of staying in the squad,” confirmed Wane.

Havard started playing rugby league at the age of six and joined Wigan’s scholarship system in 2016, advancing to make his Super League debut three years later, and also passing through the developmental England Knights.

Much of his progress has come in tandem with his close friend Smithies, who has excelled after being awarded Wigan’s prestigious number 13 jersey this season, and who fittingly provided the pass from which Havard bulled over for his try.

“I’ve got to thank Morgan for that try,” Havard told the PA news agency. “I’ve known him since we were 14 years old and I’ve come through Wigan with him, so for us to make our international debuts together was a special moment.

“At Wigan we speak a lot about our culture, being selfless and respectful to everyone, and putting in the hard work which in turn produces the self-confidence.

“It’s the same with this England squad. You are brought together with players who you hardly see for the rest of the season but there was a great spirit in the camp all week and a real feeling that we are at the start of something big together.”

Feeble French resistance turned England’s first game after last year’s agonising World Cup exit into an 11-try rout, but there will still be plenty of positives for Wane ahead of the much-tougher three-Test series that has been set for Tonga in the autumn.

England v France – Men’s Mid-Season International – Halliwell Jones Stadium
New England captain George Williams scored three tries to sink France (Martin Rickett/PA)

Besides the series of impressive debuts, George Williams excelled in his role as captain, scoring three tries, and with the international future of Sam Tomkins still unclear, it is likely the Warrington man has rubber-stamped his status as the squad’s new leader.

Meanwhile, Havard and Smithies will head back to Wigan with the intention of building on Wane’s words of encouragement and playing their way back into the squad for the Tonga games.

“I dreamed about playing for England since I was six so to come out and get a taste of it was very inspiring,” added Havard.

“This is where I want to be, but I know that Shaun demands perfection. There’s definitely stuff that I could have done differently or better in the game. You know you’ve got to put your best foot forward every time you step on the field.”