Wigan Warriors star hoping for captaincy honour

Wigan's John Bateman says he would be "buzzing" to captain England as coach Shaun Wane prepares to announce a replacement for Sam Tomkins.

Tuesday, 19th October 2021, 3:09 pm
Updated Tuesday, 19th October 2021, 3:10 pm
John Bateman

The Warriors second rower was among the candidates to succeed the retired Sean O'Loughlin at the start of the year but lost out to Tomkins for the mid-season game against the Combined Nations All Stars.

Tomkins is now ruled out of Saturday's Test match against France in Perpignan through injury and Wane plans to announce his new skipper at training on Wednesday.

"He's not said anything yet," Bateman said after Tuesday's session at Salford's AJ Bell Stadium. "He likes to keep his cards close to his chest. As long as I'm playing, I'm not too fussed.

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"If he said it, though, 100 per cent I'd be buzzing. You dream about it but you don't think it's going to come true. It'd be alright for a lad from Bradford, wouldn't it?"

St Helens stand-off Jonny Lomax is thought to be the other player in the running to lead the team out at Stade Gilbert Brutus.

France will announce their captain on Thursday when coach Laurent Frayssinous finalises his team.

Former Catalans Dragons stand-off Tony Gigot, now with Toulouse, is thought to be favourite to land the role with Ben Garcia, Julian Bousquet and Theo Fages all ruled out through injury.

One player hoping to win his first cap on Saturday is Leeds hooker Kruise Leeming, who impressed Wane after helping the All Stars to a 26-24 win over England at Warrington in June.

"It was always in my plan to play that game in front of the eyes of Shaun Wane and the selectors and to put myself in the shop window for the end of the year," he said.

The All Stars replaced the old Exiles concept and, following its reintroduction this year, is set to be retained for 2022, which would be welcomed by Leeming.

"It was good playing for the All Stars, a different experience representing my heritage from Swaziland," he said.

"It was a little bit different, the different cultures we had in that camp - it was a lot more laid back and relaxed, whereas this one is a little bit more intense.

"Waney wants us to be squeaky clean in everything which is good. Both experiences have been fantastic.

"That's what makes our sport good, that kind of competition, it should have been happening throughout the years. They took it out and now they've put it back in.

"The more time and exposure we get as an England camp to train alongside each other and learn how we play with different combinations, the better."

Despite the retirement from international rugby league of James Roby and the absence of Australia-based Josh Hodgson, Leeming is still facing stiff competition for the hooking spot with

Paul McShane thought to be in pole position to face the French and Knights captain Danny Walker also in the frame.

"England as a team throughout the years - and I'm probably biased - has been the strongest in the hooking position," Leeming said.

"We've never struggled against any other nation in that department, whether it be James Roby, Luke Robinson, Josh Hodgson, Daryl Clark - those names are regarded as the best hookers in the world never mind Super League.

"That's what's made us very strong in that position, we've always done very well at nine."

Leeming actually finished the 2021 season as a makeshift scrum-half for the Rhinos and has not ruled out playing there for his country.

"I'll play anywhere Waney wants me to, I just want to get that first cap for England," he said.

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