Wigan Warriors: The 18th Man - 'I would have gone for Liam Farrell before John Bateman...'

Our panel of 18th Men discuss the England captaincy, the players perhaps unlucky to have missed the squad, and the possibility of France recording an historic win this weekend...

Friday, 22nd October 2021, 11:29 am
Updated Friday, 22nd October 2021, 11:42 am
Liam Farrell

With Sam Tomkins ruled out of this weekend’s Test in France, who would be your England skipper and why?

Darren Wrudd: Shaun Wane was always going to pick Sam Tomkins if he was fit, he is a great fan of his and Sam certainly has an on-field presence which an international captain requires. Personally though, I would have gone for Liam Farrell before John Bateman. I like Bateman, but I think even he’ll admit his form this year has not touched the high standards of which he is capable, and perhaps needs to concentrate on his role rather than the armband. Farrell, however, has such a commanding demeanour for such a quiet and modest man. Leading by actions rather than chat, I think Liam would certainly have held his own in such company and would command respect from players of all clubs.

Jon Lyon: Shaun Wane has gone with John Bateman as captain, and it’s hard to argue with the choice, as he is the most experienced international in a relatively inexperienced squad. My personal choice would have been Liam Farrell. He’s been in great form for Wigan this year, should be nailed on for a first-team spot and has previous experience captaining Wigan, something Bateman doesn’t have. As good a player as Bateman clearly is, he knows he’s not quite hit top form yet this year. I think he’s best left to focus on his own game without the extra responsibility captaincy brings. Faz leads by example every time he steps onto the pitch and deserves the honour for his efforts this year.

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Sean Lawless: Looking through the England squad, there is a real gap of experience and perhaps captaincy candidates, perhaps compared to a few years ago. However, the stand-outs would be Jonny Lomax and John Bateman. Putting club loyalty aside, after the incredible three seasons he has had, Jonny Lomax deserves the reward of being captain. Bateman is a leader but perhaps fortunate to be in the England squad based on his form this season.

Was there anyone you would have liked to have seen in the England side who didn’t make the cut, or has Shaun Wane got it right?

Darren Wrudd: I think the new-look England squad is more or less on the money. Each coach lives or dies by his selections, and there are a number of players who could have made the selection, but there has to be a line drawn somewhere. I do like Shaun Wane’s approach, though – if you’re good enough, you’re old enough. He has never shied away from selecting youngsters and the current England squad has an energetic and youthful feel to it, even if there are a few old stagers in there. A good mix overall and one I will be glad to see walk out in our colours.

Jon Lyon: I think Wane has got it pretty much spot on. Abdull, Davies, McShane and Knowles are long overdue a chance at international level, and have all been in great form this year.

I feel Hardaker should be played in his best position at full-back so maybe we should have gone with another centre like Toby King or Mark Percival, though it’s hard to keep track of who’s having post-season operations. I much prefer seeing players playing in their proper positions where possible, and playing Zak at centre seems unnecessary. Overall it’s a young squad with plenty of hungry players desperate to make next year’s World Cup squad, so there should be no shortage of effort or intensity.

Sean Lawless: Two answers in a row in which I am going to tout for a St Helens player, but Jack Welsby for me is someone who should be in the England squad. Another season under his belt and he will very likely be in the World Cup squad. His versatility is comparable to Ratchford and there always appears to be a place for players will great versatility.

The squad does, however, look very much like a B team, given the number of absentees through injury and NRL players missing, so it feels like an opportunity missed with Welsby.

How do you see the game going...has the game in France improved to the extent it wouldn’t be a shock if England fell to defeat?

Darren Wrudd: There is only one possible result, a very convincing win by England. Anything else will be a poor show. The game in Perpignan has not improved the player pool enough for France to put up a serious challenge to a full England squad and the ethos at Catalans Dragons of building an English side in French colours is not doing much to improve the situation. Perhaps the success of the Dragons will encourage more youngsters over there to play, but I doubt it. There are one or two impressive players that are coming through for sure, but not enough. I suspect a 50-point spread will follow and I hope for more than a training run.

Jon Lyon: As long as England’s players can gel, it’s hard to see anything other than an England win. Catalans and Toulouse’ success this year has been impressive, but the truth is that a large proportion of both teams best players aren’t French. Hopefully both clubs’ performances have given the French players involved confidence and a winning mindset, but they won’t turn into world beaters overnight. I expect it to be a fierce battle early on, close for 50 minutes, and then for England to pull away towards the end. The experience of Lomax, Farrell and Bateman should steer us home with plenty to spare, and hopefully injury free.

Sean Lawless: France will continue to improve with Toulouse now being in Super League, which is great for the growth of the international game. However, they are also missing some key personnel which I think will remove the likelihood of an upset, although we all know what happened in 2013 when England played Italy… I expect France to grow competitive, and it is essential we develop any international competition for the likes of France, Scotland, Wales and Ireland to grow and thrive.

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