Shaun Wane looking outside rugby league to help England prepare for World Cup campaign

BUILDING towards the 2021 Rugby League World Cup, England head coach Shaun Wane will call on former England football captain John Terry and Ryder Cup golf star Lee Westwood to try and help inspire his squad to new heights.

Although appointed 12 months ago, Wane has still been unable to even take a single training session due to the ongoing effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

With that in mind, he has been busying himself with plenty of Zoom calls to his squad and staff and also started a sporting director CEO course while he has also met Aston Villa assistant Terry, the former Chelsea captain who won 78 caps for his country and played in the 2006 and 2010 World Cups.

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“I’m having quite a few chats with John; he’s very knowledgeable,” said Wane, whose side face Samoa in the World Cup opener at Newcastle’s St James’ Park on October 23.

“I did a chat for UEFA coaching badge attendees and he was one of them. What I talked about was standards, what we did at Wigan and what worked for us.

“He loved it. We’ve stayed on since and we have regular Zooms where I ask him questions and he asks me questions.

“He’s definitely going to come up to training and is really keen.

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“He’s very smart and loves our way of thinking in rugby league.

England head coach Shaun Wane. Picture: PAEngland head coach Shaun Wane. Picture: PA
England head coach Shaun Wane. Picture: PA

“He’s very understanding about the sport and loves the game. John’s a very proud Englishman.

Lee Westwood is another who’s a big league fan and he’ll be getting involved with us.

“It’s important for players to get a perspective from other sports; I love speaking to people like that about how they train, what their thought process is and what their standards are – and I’m assuming our players will have a thirst for that as well.”

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Super League announced last night their campaign will start on March 25 – a fortnight later than originally planned – “to increase the chances of kicking off the new season in front of fans.”

Aston Villa assistant manager John Terry.Aston Villa assistant manager John Terry.
Aston Villa assistant manager John Terry.

The Grand Final date will not be shifted from October 9, however, so it should not impact on Wane’s England plans.

Indeed, in contrast – although Super League is still discussing how the make-up of fixtures might be affected – the national squad could actually benefit from one of the longest off-seasons on record.

No side from these shores has won the World Cup since Great Britain in 1972 and the exhaustive domestic fixture list is often cited as a factor.

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Wane admitted: “The benefits for me are that the players will be fresh and enjoying their rugby.

“I look at the stats of Sean O’Loughlin (recently retired England captain) and Cameron Smith (former Australia captain) who debuted in the same year and, by 2018, Lockers had played something like 180 more games.

“It was a mad figure. If we can get to the World Cup with players still fresh and buzzing that will be a great help for me.”

Wane still expects a planned Exiles game to go ahead around June 26 and he also hopes to secure another warm-up game against Fiji around 10 days before the World Cup opener.

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Moreover, he would be happy to see Australian-born Great Britain internationals Jackson Hastings and Blake Austin – overlooked by him – play for the Exiles, which could also include the likes of Warrington Wolves’ new signing Greg Inglis, Israel Folau and Bevan French.

“Absolutely I would; I want that Exiles team to be as strong as possible and they’d be a lot stronger with Blake Austin in, no question,” he insisted.

“I need that game to be like a Test match. It (the Exiles) is still on; nothing changes.

“The season is being put back but that doesn’t alter that weekend. The game is very important to me and the plans for the World Cup.”

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Meanwhile, he has added Warrington head of performance Ade Gardner, the former St Helens and England winger, to his World Cup backroom staff.

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