John Bateman showed leadership qualities as a Bradford Bulls rookie, says England coach Shaun Wane

ENGLAND coach Shaun Wane knew John Bateman was a potential leader of his country even when still a teenager at Bradford Bulls – and hopes the job will now see the forward re-discover his finest form.

The Yorkshireman, 28, leads his country at senior level for the first time against France in Perpignan on Saturday.

With Sam Tomkins – who replaced long-standing captain Sean O’Loughlin earlier this year – out injured, Wigan Warriors second-row Bateman was confirmed in the role when Wane named a side boasting eight new caps.

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Castleford Tigers full-back Niall Evalds, Leeds Rhinos hooker Kruise Leeming and Hull KR stand-off Jordan Abdull are among the newcomers as England play their first official Test since 2018.

Admittedly, Bateman has struggled to get back to his best this season having returned to Wigan after a two-year spell with NRL’s Canberra Raiders where he established himself as one of the world’s greatest forwards.

But Wane – who was Wigan coach when they paid Bradford around £70,000 for the player shortly after his 20th birthday – feels the armband will help him recapture his formidable best.

“I’ve known him a long time,” he said.

“He’s captained an England team before at junior level.

England's John Bateman. Picture: Dave Howarth/PA Wire.

“I know he can play a lot better than he has this year but I know this responsibility will bring out the best in him and I’m hoping to see that on Saturday.

“When I first met him, he showed signs of what’s needed to be a captain.

“When he played he was always tough when under the pump; he always stood up and did the right thing and led by example.

“You could see then he was developing into a great captain.

“He did a good job with England as a junior so it was quite an easy choice in the end.

“The way John plays – his efforts, line breaks and he’s hard to handle – if he gets back to that, the lads will be made up that he’s the skip’.”

Bradfordian Bateman, named the NRL’s best second-row when he helped Canberra reach the 2019 Grand Final, conceded the accolade felt “crazy” but he will not change his approach. “It is pretty weird,” he said.

“It’s something you dreamed of as a kid; you don’t think it’s going to come true.

“You look at the people who’ve captained England, and even people like Lockers (O’Loughlin), Sam Burgess and James Graham who I’ve played with before.

“They’re some of the greatest captains of all-time and it’s fantastic to now be part of that group. I’m really just looking forward to getting out there on Saturday and getting stuck into it with the boys.”

Bateman captained Wigan on an odd occasion before his move to Australia but, that aside, he has not led a team since being in charge of England Under-16s and England Under-18s.

His club were knocked out of the play-offs at the first hurdle by Leeds last month and he admitted: “It’s not been the best year at Wigan with how we’ve gone.

“But you move on from it. You can’t kick stones about it.

“This has been one of the things I’ve been looking forward to all year and it’s a massive game going into the World Cup.

“Nothing changes for me; I’ll go out and play my game.

“You don’t change away from the reasons that have got you here in the first place, and there’s a number of captains in this group to be fair. I’ll just try to lead by example.”

Other players gaining their first England cap are Leeds prop Mikolaj Oledzki, Castleford hooker Paul McShane, Catalans Dragons winger Tom Davies, St Helens loose forward Morgan Knowles and Warrington Wolves prop Joe Philbin.

England: Evalds; Davies, Lyne, Hardaker, Makinson; Lomax, Abdull; Walmsley, McShane, Cooper, Farrell, Bateman, Knowles. Substitutes: Currie, Leeming, Oledzki, Philbin.