Wane’s world but now is England’s time to be bold and brave - Dave Craven

IT must be an exciting time for Shaun Wane as he sits down to sift through all the potential contenders for his first England squad.

England head coach Shaun Wane.

That said, even if he had no one to whet his appetite he would be excited; the Wiganer is as passionate as they come when it comes to rugby league and moreover when it involves his country.

However, encouragingly, and just from the evidence of the early rounds of Super League, there is plenty of talent for the 55-year-old to cast his eye over and, importantly, fresh talent, too.

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The Ashes series against Australia – a first since 2003 – kicks off on the last day of October but it will be here in no time at all. After the painful, sobering end to Wayne Bennett’s reign with the dismal showing from Great Britain on tour, it will be intriguing to see if the other Wane makes wholesale changes in the England set-up or merely tinkers with what is already there.

Plenty of people will hope he is bold and courageous as he sets about assembling his first squad. The Super League season is still only in its embryonic stages but some players are already quickly displaying to Wane just what they could contribute.

Jonny Lomax, for instance, has come up with some brilliant plays for St Helens, not least when taking the game by the scruff of the neck at Hull FC.

He did this from the position of half-back and, despite having served his country so well from full-back under Bennett, there is a growing argument England’s attack should be built around this gifted talent in his favoured role.

Ideally, there needs to be at least one change in the playmaker positions. For all Gareth Widdop has been an established England player for some time, it is hard to remember him ever truly dominating a Test match against one of the top sides.

He is still only 30 but has he had enough chances to make one of those spots his own especially when there is such competition?

Jackson Hastings has still yet to even play for England but having started all four Tests with the Lions last autumn there is an argument that he, too, has been given ample opportunity.

Will Wane even persist with ‘heritage’ players such as Hastings and Blake Austin when it comes to the crunch? In fairness, if Hastings can replicate his Salford Man of Steel form this year with Wigan, he will perhaps warrant another shot to show what he can do for his adopted country.

But there are so many others chasing him down with Luke Gale sprightly on his return to fitness with new club Leeds and the Castleford Tigers pairing of Jake Trueman and Danny Richardson demonstrating such promise.

Elsewhere, it will be fascinating to see if Wane gives his old Wigan captain Sean O’Loughlin one last swansong for England as he approaches his 38th birthday.

If not, Morgan Smithies, the confident teenager making such strides himself at Warriors, will fancy being given a chance to step up if his progress continues.

And what of the NRL-based players; will Wane stick with the all-round game of Canberra Raiders hooker Josh Hodgson or opt for the more dynamic Warrington rake Daryl Clark? Or even finally be the one to give Castleford’s Paul McShane a chance?

Can the Burgess boys hold off Liam Watts and co? On current form, Hull FC’s Josh Griffin has to be considered at centre, especially with Mark Percival and Oliver Gildart currently injured.

Wane will already be pencilling in some names.

Let’s hope he is bold and brave. I imagine he will.