Wane's balancing act for Williams and Leuluai
Shaun Wane admits he will have to perform a balancing act between throwing his support behind England and plotting the downfall of Cronulla Sharks.
Warriors face the NRL champions on February 19 for the right to be named World Club Champions, and there is also the small matter of Wigan’s Super League title defence for Wane to plan.
But with a new half-back combination in George Williams and the returning Thomas Leuluai, Wane has to ensure his players tune-up quickly – although stand-off Williams is expected to be called into an England pre-season camp next month,
“My concern is making sure the time we do have we get the best out of it – that we get a lot of reps in,” said Wane.
England’s World Cup bid next year will take on extra significance on two levels.
The disappointment of this year’s Four Nations campaign needs putting right, and they will also want to go a step further than the semi-final heartbreak they suffered in 2013, when New Zealand’s Shaun Johnson snatched away a place in the final from England in the dying moments.
Wane acknowledges the importance of England’s players preparing well for an important year, but is keen to strike the right balance for Wigan too.
“Some things are taken out of my hands,” he admitted.
“We’re not going to get much time with the players. We want to support England, but we also want to beat Cronulla and start the season well – so it’s finding that balance.
“I’ll get what I get, and use it the best I can.”
Traditionally, Wane’s England players are given a longer break before reporting for pre-season duties at the club’s training base in Orrell.
But at 20 years of age, Williams, despite being on Four Nations duty this autumn, will be back early.
“George is only a kid, he doesn’t need much of a break,” said Wane. “He’ll be in before others.”
And the coach is also excited about having 2010 Harry Sunderland Trophy winner Leuluai back in the Wigan ranks after a four-season absence.
Coming in to replace half-back Matty Smith, who left to return to St Helens, Leuluai will be Wane’s first-choice half back next season, although he can also play at hooker.
“Tommy is a great talent,” said Wane. “Smeegs (Smith) had five great years, but Tommy is a different sort of player and is going to be a big asset.”