Why there is method in England coach Shaun Wane’s selection ‘madness’ - Dave Craven

IT IS understandable why some people are confused by England coach Shaun Wane’s latest selection.

SELECTION POSERS: England head coach Shaun Wane. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com

There are plenty of in-form players who have not been picked to take part in his first training session on Tuesday and most of those will wonder why they have not been selected, too.

However, there is plenty of method in Wane’s so-called madness.

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Let’s not forget, the coach has been in charge for 14 months but has still yet to even take a practice session due to the ravaging effects of Covid.

Hull FC's Jake Connor Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

With that in mind, all he has been able to do is pick squads on paper and try and keep in touch with them on Zoom calls and the like.

Given his last such selection was only in November, and - before this weekend of Challenge Cup games - there have only been two rounds of Super League fixtures since that selection, it would have been hard for him to usurp anyone from that 35-man squad. Yes, there have been some brilliant performances in the opening couple of weeks of Super League from players not involved but they have time to prove their worth to Wane.

That will most likely be true of people like Jake Connor.

It is hard to think England has enough gifted players to leave him out of the World Cup squad come October but the Hull FC star has to perform consistently.

IN THE MIX: Jake Trueman scores Castleford Tigers' first try in Friday night's Challenge Cup thriller with Hull KR at Craven Park. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

His club has been saying that for years, let alone his country.

Connor has been sublime since switching to full-back for the Black and Whites this term and it looks his best position.

He can still create so much from there without any of the stresses of organising that comes with playing in the halves.

But Sam Tomkins remains a stellar player in that position and has such a wealth of experience to already call upon as well as being someone Wane knows so, so well from their Wigan days together.

You sense Wane would fully trust Tomkins if the World Cup started tomorrow. Connor? He will have some doubts.

The message to Connor - and presumably all those players currently on the fringes of the national team - will surely be: prove to me you can perform at the highest level for two months - not just two weeks - and you will be in my thoughts.

There are plenty of players in that position; Castleford Tigers’ Jake Trueman is looking increasingly like a Test player and his club colleague Liam Watts will be confident he can recapture his own best form to make a push for a front-row slot.

Catalans Dragons winger Tom Davies might think he can make a push although England are not short of wideman and the country’s most prolific try scorer - Hull KR’s Ryan Hall - will also feel that he can yet force his way back into the reckoning.

In reality, Wane does probably know around 80 per cent of his squad for the World Cup if all things remain equal.

But he is a winner. And you know he will always pick a side that he thinks gives him the best chance to win.

There is often a bolter from left field and it would be no surprise if over the next five months, someone else did emerge from nowhere.

For now, Tuesday’s session at Leeds Beckett University is precisely 200 days before they kick off against Samoa up in Newcastle.

That is plenty of time for players - in and out of the squad - to make themselves indispensable to Shaun Wane.

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