Despite describing the selection process of his Combined Nations All Stars side as ‘extremely challenging’, Ellery Hanley has described the concept of this weekend’s game against England as a ‘wonderful idea’.
Hanley took over from Tim Sheens as the All Stars head coach for this year. Initially naming a 30-man squad for the training camp, the ex-Wigan man has had to scramble to put a team together.
Players have withdrawn through injury and suspension, while some of those asked at the eleventh hour were unable to take part due to pre-planned holidays. Hanley however remains excited for the challenge ahead.
“I still stand by the fact that the concept and the idea behind the Combined Nations playing England is wonderful,” Hanley told Love Rugby League.
“I think it’s great, not just because I’m involved in it. Even from last year’s game [which saw the Combined Nations beat England], you could see the competitiveness. That set the standards in terms of what the players can expect from this year’s match.
“England are hurting from that loss, make no mistake, and that’s going to make our job so much harder this week. We’re not going to be complacent, both sides know they have to perform well. We know it’s going to be a tough challenge for both sets of players.”
Raring To Go
Unlike the game at the Halliwell Jones last June, this year the mid-season international is a standalone fixture.
There are no games being played domestically with other internationals also being played including France vs Wales.
Hanley himself played in a similar game to the Combined Nations test back in 1984. He lined up for a ‘Europe’ side as they lost 54-4 to ‘Oceania’, made up of players from Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea.
He added, “I’m still hurting from that loss all these years on, honestly, but I think it’s great that this weekend has top billing. It’s a genius idea being a standalone fixture.
“It gives players who aren’t involved a little rest and gives others a chance to get over some injuries they might have picked up. I actually think it will give everyone a pep up, and sharpen up Super League given most of the players will have had the weekend off.
“Importantly for us though, our boys in the Combined Nations aren’t going to roll over. I’d be exactly the same if I was some years younger and involved in this particular squad.
“There’s no way that I’d be turning up just to give England a run out. I’d play forcefully and be having a purpose about being in the Combined Nations side.”
Saturday’s game at the Halliwell Jones Stadium in Warrington kicks off at 5:45pm.