England v Combined All Stars: Shaun Wane’s wait is finally over

APPOINTED in February last year, England coach Shaun Wane will finally see his side in action tonight when they face Combined Nations All Stars in a mid-season international at Warrington.

Paul McShane of England during yesterday's training session. Pictures: Paul Currie/SWpix.com

Before this week, Wane had been restricted to only one, day-long training session with his squad, in Leeds two months ago.

England will be without their Australian-based contingent and one of Wane’s key players, St Helens forward Alex Walmsley, has been ruled out because of a knee injury.

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The All Stars, supposedly the pick of the best non-English players in Super League, have been hit by a series of withdrawals and their coach Tim Sheens has had to select several England contenders, as well as Featherstone’s Junior Moors out of the Championship.

England coach Shaun Wane.

Despite the troubled background to tonight’s game, though, Wane is upbeat about how the first of their two World Cup warm-up games will go.

“I am very confident,” said the former Wigan coach, who has appointed full-back Sam Tomkins as his captain.

Tomkins and his Catalans Dragons team-mate Tom Davies proved their commitment to the cause by driving, separately, 1,000 miles from Perpignan to be available for this evening.

Wane insisted: “The players are top-class, the best in our country, I have worked with them over the past 12 months and been through a lot of footage over the internet with them and they have been great.”

Sam Tomkins with England team-mate John Bateman.

Wane has named six uncapped players in an 18-man squad and added: “They are all passionate, like me; it means a lot to them to be selected for their country.

“When they realised they were in the 19 they were absolutely ecstatic and that’s the feeling I want.

“I want the players to be proud and understand we are a proud nation and it starts [tonight] leading into a World Cup year,” he added.

The potential debutants include Leeds Rhinos winger Ash Handley and Polish-born prop Mikolaj Oledzki, along with Castleford Tigers’ Paul McShane, the reigning Man of Steel.

Among the players looking to impress Wane from the rival camp are Huddersfield Giants winger Jermaine McGillvary, who was on England’s 24-man long list for the game and Hull full-back Jake Connor.

England’s women begin their World Cup preparations in a curtain-raiser, against Wales.

Super League: Page 23