England head coach Shaun Wane is hoping to set up a “high-quality” match for his team before the end of the year and has not ruled out taking on a Super League Exiles team or one of the home nations.
The cancellation of this autumn’s Ashes series was confirmed on Monday morning, partly to help domestic competitions in England and Australia struggle to get over the line due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It represents a sizeable bump in the road in terms of Wane’s plans for next year’s World Cup, if not a wholly unexpected one. Wane is keen to schedule a mid-season Test in 2021 ahead of the World Cup in October and November of next year, and is still hoping there may be a way to squeeze in a match this year too.
The Rugby Football League and the Australian Rugby League Commission today confirm the cancellation of the Rugby League Ashes Series that was scheduled to be held in England this October and November.
— England Rugby League (at 🏠) (@England_RL) June 1, 2020
A match against the best overseas talent the Super League has to offer would represent a decent test.
“The other day I was in the garden and I picked an Exiles team of players I’d seen in Super League, and it was a very strong team,” he said.
“It was as good as any Test team. So it would be great for the fans over here to watch a game like that of that standard.
“But I know there’s a lot of things could happen, so it’s not certain of being on, but if there’s a chance I know (Rugby Football League chief executive) Ralph (Rimmer) has always been very supportive of me and helped me in every way he can, and I know he’ll do his best in the same way.”
Asked about the prospect of facing one or more of Scotland, Wales or Ireland, he added: “Definitely. Super League is strong and we’ve got players from all of the home nations in Super League. A game is a game, but for me, as national coach, I would want it to be as high quality as possible. That would be the key.”
An Ashes series against Australia may now have to wait until 2022.
— Canberra Raiders (@RaidersCanberra) May 30, 2020
One Englishman impressing Down Under is half-back George Williams, who drew praise for his performance in Canberra Raiders’ weekend victory over Melbourne as the NRL resumed.
Wane was measured in his praise for the 25-year-old, and says he still has much more improvement to make.
“I thought the Aussies went over the top, they were raving about him,” the former Wigan coach said.
“I’ve seen him do those things hundreds of times, he does it in Super League but it doesn’t seem to be recognised. I thought he did some good things but he can have more involvement.
“If George had delivered that for me at Wigan, I’d have been into him. I’m sure other Super League coaches may have been the same. He did well, no question. I’m a big George Williams fan, but he needs to improve.”