Battle to be England coach Shaun Wane’s No 1 pick gathering pace

WHEN Shaun Wane announces his England squad tomorrow – bizarrely for his first training session since taking over 14 months ago – there will be much interest in which full-backs are included and omitted.

Shaun Wane: Set to name his squad.

It is a position where the head coach does not lack choice.

Although Covid-19 has wrecked his plans to even practice yet, let alone play, Wane has been staying in regular contact with a squad of players he has in contention for the World Cup at the end of the year.

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In the last squad he picked in November, there were three full-backs – Sam Tomkins, Stefan Ratchford and Niall Evalds – but potentially up to six if you class Zak Hardaker, Jonny Lomax and Dan Sarginson as No 1s.

Hardaker, indeed, has switched from centre to full-back for Wigan at the start of this season to cover for the absent Bevan French and looked like the player who won Man of Steel from that position for treble-winning Leeds Rhinos in 2015.

However, Tomkins was brilliant as Catalans Dragons defeated Huddersfield Giants on Saturday.

Then, of course, outside of all those there is Hull FC’s Jake Connor, who was similarly outstanding for Hull FC as they vanquished Salford Red Devils.

He has never been in favour with Wane but has revelled since a switch to No 1 this season.

Hull coach Brett Hodgson said: “I’m not sure what’s in Shaun Wane’s mind. What I can say is if I was picking a team he’d be in my squad, no doubt.

“He has exceptional talent when he has the ball in his hand and is improving every day with his off the ball stuff. He’s definitely a player I’d look at.”

But Catalans coach Steve McNamara, who was in charge of England at the 2013 World Cup, knows who he thinks should be the national side’s full-back.

He said: “There’s some very good players and Sam’s one of those. But what I think separates him from the others is his actual leaderships skills. He is a genuine leader.

“And in my opinion, if Sam Tomkins plays full-back in the last World Cup final in Brisbane (a 6-0 loss to Australia in 2017), England score enough points to win that game. So for me I’d have him in every day of the week.”

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