Five big tasks facing new England coach Shaun Wane
Shaun Wane has taken over from Wayne Bennett as England head coach this week. Here are first five tasks in his in-tray...
The new coach’s first job will be to appoint the rest of the England backroom staff. Ian Watson (Salford) and Danny Ward (London Broncos) were right-hand men to his predecessor on the Great Britain tour, while St Helens assistant Paul Wellens has been a regular in the England set-up up to taking a break.
Former Great Britain internationals Paul Anderson and Paul Sculthorpe are also in the England performance unit so could be called on to assist.
Consider his captain for the Ashes series
Wane’s old Wigan skipper Sean O’Loughlin is technically still the England captain but he sat out the Great Britain tour and is in his final year with his club as he ponders retirement.
With the injury to and subsequent retirement of Sam Burgess, former St Helens prop James Graham led the Lions but he will be 36 when the World Cup comes around, and the coach must decide whether he appoints a stop-gap captain or thinks long term.
Who to play mid-season
With only three Tests definitely in the calendar before the 2021 World Cup, a fixture during the mid-season international break makes sense for the new coach.
Wayne Bennett had lined up a match against Samoa but it was not the only option and, after the World Cup draw which paired the Samoans with England, he is likely to seek fresh opponents. If he opts to stay in Europe, France or a revived Exiles may be options.
Planning for the 2021 World Cup
Does Wane think short-term and focus on taking on the Kangaroos for the first time since 2016 with the aim of a first Ashes Series triumph for 50 years?
Or does he follow the example of his predecessor and plan with one eye firmly on 2021 – and bring some of the ‘next generation’ into the mix?
A trip to Australia
Unlike his predecessor, Wane will be able to keep a close eye on England candidates in Super League but, with up several plying their trade in the NRL, he will want to see them in action and meet with them face to face during the 2020 season.
He knows all about James Graham, Tom Burgess, John Bateman, Josh Hodgson and Elliott Whitehead.
But he will need to check on the form and fitness of people like George Williams, Ryan Hall, Kallum Watkins and Ryan Sutton.