England face the Combined Nations All-Stars at Warrington’s Halliwell Jones Stadium on Friday, June 25. Watch that match and the women’s international between England and Wales beforehand live on Sky Sports
By Marc Bazeley
Last Updated: 18/06/21 2:15pm
Shaun Wane is confident George Williams will be ready to go when England take to the field against the Combined Nations All-Stars next Friday.
Williams, who is due to arrive back in the UK on Saturday, has not played since Canberra Raiders’ game against Melbourne Storm last month following his release from the NRL club and will undergo a fitness check before a final decision on his participation is made.
He has been keeping himself in shape with his own training sessions though and, having been in regular contact with a player he knows well from their days at Wigan Warriors, England head coach Wane has no concerns at present over putting him in at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
England vs Combined Nations All Stars
June 25, 2021, 8:00pm
“He’s been training, he’s a smart kid and it’s only four weeks since he last played,” Wane said. “He’s looked after himself and he knows how I want to play, and he’ll fit in really, really well.
“We’ve got Luke Gale in there, we’ve got Gareth Widdop for the World Cup, so I’ve got no stress at all about George coming in.
“I’ve spoken to him every couple of days and he’s in a good place. I know he’s had a few problems leaving Canberra, but he’s a strong-minded Wigan kid and he can get over things quite quickly.
“It’s done and dusted; he’s flying back to our great country now and he can’t wait to join the lads.”
He’s been training, he’s a smart kid and it’s only four weeks since he last played. He’s looked after himself and he knows how I want to play, and he’ll fit in really, really well.
Shaun Wane on George Williams
Williams is joined in Wane’s provisional 24-man squad for the match against the All-Stars by Luke Gale and Jonny Lomax as half-back options, although there is no place for Gareth Widdop after his recent recall to the extended elite performance squad.
The Warrington Wolves man, who has been in superb form in Super League recently, is still very much in Wane’s thoughts even though he did not make the cut for the match at his home stadium, which is live on Sky Sports.
“He was very close,” Wane said. “He’s a great player, his form has been superb and he’s in the World Cup squad. He’s very close and I rate him highly.”
Reigning Man of Steel Paul McShane is among the players in the squad who could make their bows for the senior England team on June 25, with Ash Handley, Mikolaj Oledzki, Toby King, Tom Davies, Jake Wardle and former Wales international Morgan Knowles all in line to feature too.
Oledzki is on the verge of becoming the first Poland-born player to feature in international rugby league and former prop Wane has been impressed with what he has seen from the Leeds Rhinos forward.
Williams in England squad to face All-Stars
George Williams is in England’s provisional 24-man squad to face the Combined Nations after his release from Canberra.
“He’s a great kid, he’s trained with us, he wants to learn, he wants to improve, he’s competitive and he’s a good lad,” Wane said.
“He’s good to have around and he’s a friendly kid, so those attributes are perfect for me.
“He’s strong, he runs hard, he’s got good leg speed and he can play the England way, so I’m excited to see how he does.”
Wane’s opposite number Tim Sheens is expected to reveal his Combined Nations squad on Sunday, although it has already been confirmed that Australia-born Great Britain international Jackson Hastings will be their co-captain.
He’s strong, he runs hard, he’s got good leg speed and he can play the England way, so I’m excited to see how he does.
Shaun Wane on Mikolaj Oledzki
Both Wane and Sheens are mindful of the fact there is a full round of Super League fixtures taking place next week as well, including three matches being played on the same night as England’s match against the All-Stars.
The demands of the domestic season mean players like St Helens hooker James Roby have not been included for what Wane expects to be an intense clash, with the England boss also currently without his NRL-based players.
But while both he and Sheens are trying to ensure no more than six players from each club are chosen across both squads, the 56-year-old still expects the match to be a good test for both himself and his players as they build towards this year’s World Cup.
“Tim has been in club-land and so have I, so I understand the pressures on head coaches and we’re trying to do our best on every club without a shadow of a doubt,” Wane said.
Live International Women’s Rugby League
June 25, 2021, 5:30pm
“We’ve got a few injuries, but the team we put out on Friday will be very strong. It will be a lot stronger when we get the NRL players over, but that’s not to be.
“It’s going to be a Test match next week and for me to coach against Tim Sheens next week personally, it’s a massive moment for me in my coaching career.”