Pandemic forces England chief Shaun Wane to delay naming squad

England coach Shaun Wane has been forced to delay the selection of his squad for next week’s match against the Combined Nations All Stars due to the impact of Covid-19.

England Rugby League head coach Shaun Wane: Plans again disrupted by covid. Picture: SWPix
England Rugby League head coach Shaun Wane: Plans again disrupted by covid. Picture: SWPix

The former Wigan chief succeeded Australian Wayne Bennett as England head coach in February, 2020 but his reign then coincided with the arrival of the pandemic which forced the cancellation of the Ashes Series.

The mid-season international against the All Stars at Warrington on Friday, June 25 will be his first as national coach and a key fixture in the build-up to the end-of-season World Cup, but the pandemic has continued to wreak havoc with his preparations.

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A training session with the 31 UK-based members of his elite training squad was scheduled for Headingley on Monday but was scrapped due to a coronavirus outbreak at Leeds and Huddersfield.

Kallum Watkins: Season has been ended by operation.

At least a dozen players have returned positive tests and many more have been forced to self-isolate through the track and trace protocols, including a handful of England squad members.

Wane was also due to hold a training session at Warrington on Wednesday morning before announcing his 19-man squad for the All Stars game but that, too, has fallen victim to the pandemic.

It is hoped Wane may be in a position to name his squad on Thursday but he will now only have on-field access to his players at Salford next Tuesday morning and at the final team run at the Halliwell Jones Stadium next Friday.

Salford’s former Leeds centre Kallum Watkins, who was in Wane’s 38-strong squad, has ruled himself out of the World Cup through injury.

The 30-year-old Watkins, who was in the England team that reached the final of the 2017 World Cup, damaged knee ligaments in the Red Devils’ recent match against Warrington and, after undergoing surgery on Tuesday, revealed on Instagram that his season is over.

“I went in for surgery on my meniscus and MCL and both have been repaired,” wrote Watkins.

“Unfortunately, they had to check my ACL which they said they would do, to then find out it’s been torn as well.

“So at the moment I’m devastated with the news as I thought I would be out for 10 weeks but that has now been extended.

“My season is over but I was also pushing hard to get into the England squad for the World Cup. That will not happen now.

“I know that I’ll be back, bigger, better and stronger, both physically and mentally.”