Shaun Wane hails ‘outstanding’ Harry Smith but delivers future warning

England boss Shaun Wane praised England half-back Harry Smith for his three winning performances against Tonga, but gave a warning for the future.
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23-year-old Smith, who was one vote short of the Harry Sunderland Trophy at Old Trafford in October, was voted the player of the series following the trio of triumphs, having kicked 22 of England 62 points claimed in St Helens, Huddersfield and Leeds respectively – the visitors themselves only crossing for 26 altogether.

The final showdown saw Wane’s side claim a whitewash on home soil following a dominant 26-4 victory at Headingley Stadium, including a try for Elliott Whitehead on his 27th and final England cap, having announced Saturday’s tie would be his last on the international stage.

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Centre Harry Newman also crossed in an impressive individual display, with Ben Currie scoring on his call-up alongside another for Warrington speedster Matty Ashton.

England coach Shaun Wane (r) congratulates Harry Smith after victory over Tonga.England coach Shaun Wane (r) congratulates Harry Smith after victory over Tonga.
England coach Shaun Wane (r) congratulates Harry Smith after victory over Tonga.

“I’m unbelievably proud of what we’ve done and how we’ve done it,” Wane said after the victory.

“We’ve had a few players pull out so we could have turned out a stronger squad, but so could they.

“But you look at Mikey [Lewis] and Harry [Smith], they were number four and five. Or they were, they’re not anymore. You look at the way they’ve behaved in this series, I think they’ve been outstanding.

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“They’ve done really good things and they’ll go from strength to strength.”

But despite Smith’s performances on the big stage, which included two try assists in the win at the home of Leeds Rhinos, Wane gave a warning to the young star.

The 59-year-old three-time Super League winning coach wants the playmaker to continue improving in order to retain his number seven shirt on the international stage, with an international calendar in place through until the 2026 World Cup in the Southern Hemisphere.

“He’s not nailed it,” Wane responded when asked about Smith’s future spot in the halves.

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“He’s been really good, but he obviously needs things to be improved on. I wouldn’t say he’s nailed his case though as an automatic half-back.”

Wane also said he’d love to reverse the series, with this year’s marking the first-ever between the two nations.

"I’d love to play three tests in Tonga, there’s nothing I’d give more to try and go over there and beat them,” he added.