SHAUN Wane hailed Mike McIlorum as ‘the toughest player I’ve ever coached’ as the in-form Warrior prepares to make his mark on the world stage.
The tenacious hooker is ready to help England take on the world’s best in the upcoming Gillette Four Nations, which gets underway later this month.
Although St Helens’ James Roby is likely to be the starting hooker, McIlorum could see plenty of action off the interchange bench.
And Wane believes Wigan’s number nine would not look out of place among the big boys.
“He has been one of our most consistent performers this year,” Wane said.
“He’s not missed a single game, and that is a credit to him and the way he trains and prepares and looks after himself.
“Every time we train, it’s full-on and we work under very high-intensity, and it can be hard to maintain those levels. But Micky never dips from that and, from a coaching point of view, that’s just what you want.”
The 23-year-old is no stranger to international rugby, having represented Ireland in the World Cup 2008, while he recently made a substitute appearance for England in the inaugural origin match against the Exiles.
He will be hoping to play a part for England on Friday night as they travel to Avignon for a warm-up match against France ahead of the Four Nations, which kicks-off the following weekend.
Wane added: “I’ve not spoken to Steve McNamara since they went into camp, but I can guarantee they will all be impressed with the way he is training. He’s got so much desire and puts so much effort into everything he does.
“For his weight, he gets some terrific hits in, he always aims up, and I’d go as far as saying he’s the toughest player I’ve ever coached.
“Not in terms of tough as in fighting, but the way he plays through the pain barrier and pushes himself. I can’t speak highly enough of him.”
McIlorum has been one of the unsung heroes this season for the Warriors, and his new club coach is hoping he’ll get the chance to show what he can do against the big boys from the NRL.
“He’s an honest player and an honest bloke off the field,” Wane added.
“I know I’m biased but I’m glad he got included in the England squad, and I hope he gets his chance. He won’t let anyone down.”
England open their Four Nations campaign against Wales at Leigh Sports Village on Saturday week.
They then face Australia, at Wembley, and New Zealand in Hull on successive weekends, aiming to book their place in the final on November 19 at Elland Road.
New Wigan assistant coach Iestyn Harris has, as expected, included Gil Dudson, Gareth Thomas and Ben Flower in his Wales squad for the Four Nations.
The ex-Crusaders trio are thought to have agreed moves to Wigan for next season, although no announcement has been made by the club.
Wales, who also include ex-Warriors academy forward Neil Budworth, face Ireland in a warm-up for the Four Nations on Saturday.