COLUMN: The off-field verbal battle between Wane and Woolf should be welcomed, not discouraged

The off-field verbal battle between England’s Shaun Wane and Tonga’s Kristian Woolf ahead of the third instalment of the three-match test series should be welcomed by rugby league supporters, not discouraged.
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There has been a lot of chatter on social media regarding the famous Wigan versus St Helens rivalry. But the off-field comments have helped build suspense for this final clash at the home of Leeds Rhinos, with an early prediction of at least one card at AMT Headingley Rugby Stadium.

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Tongan skipper Addin Fonua-Blake let his frustrations bubble over following his side’s second consecutive defeat, seen having an argument with veteran Super League forward Chris Hill following the full-time hooter.

England head coach Shaun Wane and Tonga's Kristian WoolfEngland head coach Shaun Wane and Tonga's Kristian Woolf
England head coach Shaun Wane and Tonga's Kristian Woolf
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“Emotion spills over but it’s all fun and games,” Hill said post-match inside the John Smith’s Stadium.

“Why did he take an objection to me? I don’t know. I’m not sure.

“It’s tit for tat, we’ll leave them to it.”

The off-field drama has added to the tension ahead of the final test match which could be the most entertaining one of the three - although the first two haven’t been the best spectacles, not that coach Wane will mind, having already claimed the series win.

Tonga are playing for pride, while the England boss has made no secret of his desire for a whitewash on home soil.

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Wigan’s Tyler Dupree will win his second cap from the interchange bench, while Morgan Smithies could also feature for the injured Victor Radley following his late call up to the squad.

Harry Smith retains his spot in the halves over Mikey Lewis, with Wane openly admitting that captain George Williams was always going to be included following his suspension.

It’s a smart decision. Grand Final winner Smith will continue to be the organiser and control the game with his management and in-play kicks, allowing returning Williams, much like he did Lewis, to utilise his running game and create breaks and chances.

Having had his NRL move confirmed earlier this week, Smithies will be a tough player to replace within the Wigan squad but boss Matt Peet has certainly been preparing for his departure with the additions ahead of 2024.

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Incoming Luke Thompson is a potential player to fill the void at loose forward, while Kaide Ellis has also filled the position sporadically. It may also open a chance for Sam Powell to remain with the DW Stadium outfit, having also played in the position.

Meanwhile, England rugby union captain Owen Farrell has been pictured back in his Saracens colours to continue the Premiership season, which should put an end to the online rumours.

The Orrell-born Wigan St Patricks junior had been linked with a move to the Warriors for numerous months following an interview where he shared his admiration for his former code and his hometown club.

But the 15-player code legend looks set to remain with his club, believed to be on contract through until 2024. It would have been a huge move not only for Wigan but also rugby league, but that’s the end of that and it was enjoyable while it lasted.