England coach throws down challenge to Castleford Tigers’ Paul McShane

SHAUN Wane says uncapped Castleford Tigers hooker Paul McShane was a “shoo-in” for his first England squad – but needs to improve further still when Betfred Super League resumes.

Tigers' Paul McShane  Picture Tony Johnson
Tigers' Paul McShane Picture Tony Johnson

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New England coach Wane confident that Ashes series will be given the go-ahead

McShane was arguably the competition’s top player before Covid-19 shut it down last month.

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In spearheading Castleford’s excellent start, shooting ahead at the top of the Steve Prescott Man of Steel leaderboard was perhaps evidence of that.

McShane, 30, has been one of the best hookers around in recent years but was consistently overlooked by Wane’s predecessor Wayne Bennett. Nevertheless, he was included in the new England coach’s first selection – 31 prospective Ashes candidates – at the start of last month to offer hope that he could finally earn a Test debut. Clearly, McShane still faces stiff competition from regulars St Helens’ James Roby, Daryl Clark, of Warrington Wolves, and Canberra Raiders star Josh Hodgson. Wane said: “He needs to keep doing what he’s doing.

“Paul McShane is a great player but we’ve some great hookers in this country and another in Australia (Hodgson).

“But the fact is we’ve played a few rounds of Super League and we need to just get better. I’ve never been one for pouring praise on people; we need to strive to get better and improve and that goes for every England player, too.

“I want them to be the best players on the field whenever they play. That’s their job.

“Paul McShane has been doing that. All the years I’ve coached Wigan and played against him he’s been a pain in the backside and always done a great job for Cas. He’s a player I’ve always admired him, so he was a shoo-in for me.”

The pandemic meant Wane’s first meet-up with his players, scheduled for Old Trafford on March 23, had to be postponed.

Due to social distancing measures in place, he is still yet to talk to them collectively but will now start the process of speaking to each player individually over the coming days and weeks.

Wane has announced that his two assistants for this autumn’s home Ashes series against Australia and the 2021 World Cup, will be Hull FC interim head coach Andy Last and St Helens’ Paul Wellens.

He had planned to announce the appointments at that first gathering last month.

However, both Last and Wellens joined a webinar this week at which Wane addressed coaches and support staff of all teams in the England Performance Unit about “Developing Winning Behaviour and Standards”. Last, 38, is a former England Academy coach who has become a key figure at Hull since retiring as a player in 2004.

He initially worked as head of youth development before becoming assistant coach to Richard Agar and then Lee Radford.

Last is currently in charge at the Airlie Birds following Radford’s sacking last month and gained senior international experience as part of Scotland’s coaching staff at the 2017 World Cup.

Wellens, 40, earned 37 caps for England and Great Britain and claimed the domestic game’s three major individual honours – the Harry Sunderland Trophy, the Lance Todd Trophy, and the Steve Prescott Man of Steel Award – during his distinguished playing career with Saints.

He was a member of the England coaching staff under Bennett for the 2017 World Cup and the home series win against New Zealand in 2018, before taking a break last year when Danny Ward and Ian Watson became assistants for the ill-fated Lions tour.

Last was appointed before those recent events unfolded at Hull and Wane said: “Rugby knowledge made them stand out. They’re decent men and they work hard. They’re able to work with me and I’ve tasked them with a few things so hopefully they come up with the goods.

“I had long chats with the head coaches and their own clubs and the feedback I had was fantastic.

“I’ve always been impressed with Lasty and when I got appointed I was happy with the chance to get two smart rugby people on board. I’m confident we’ve got a great team.”

Wane, 55, will name his captain later and added: “It’s important but in the grand scheme of things, not that important.

“I’ve a few ideas in terms of leaders I like to be potentially captain, but the main thing is getting the squad together and making sure they understand what I’m about, because I’m very different to the last regime.”

Finally, Wane’s former Leeds team-mate Colin Maskill, who also played for Wakefield Trinity, has replaced Jamie Peacock who has stood down as team manager.

RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer said: “We paid tribute to Kevin Sinfield and the immense contribution he made to the England Performance Unit when he stepped down in January.

“And it is right we do likewise for Danny Ward, Ian Watson and Jamie Peacock for their efforts with Great Britain last autumn, and in Jamie’s case stretching back several years with England and Great Britain.”