England assistant Andy Last delivers verdict on the 4 debutants following France win

Drew Darbyshire
Oliver Wilson, Elliot Minchella, Sam Wood, Brad O'Neill England Alamy

Oliver Wilson, Elliot Minchella, Sam Wood and Brad O'Neill made their England debuts against France

England head coach Shaun Wane had the pleasure of handing out debuts to four players in Saturday’s 40-8 win over France in Toulouse.

Oliver Wilson (Huddersfield Giants), Elliot Minchella (Hull KR), Sam Wood (Castleford Tigers) and Brad O’Neill (Wigan Warriors) made their senior England bows in a comfortable win at the Stade Ernest Wallon on Saturday evening.

Wane was unable to make the trip to the south of France due to ankle surgery earlier this week, with his assistant Andy Last taking charge of the team on Saturday, with Wane watching from a hospital bed and providing feedback over the phone before, during and after the Test match.

Speaking post-match, Last praised the four debutants on show and insists they’ll be better off for the experience.

“There were some strong performances,” Last said when asked about the debutants. “I thought Sam Wood in the centre was solid, he made some good defensive reads and carried the ball with some purpose and broke the line on a couple of occasions.

“Oliver Wilson played a strong game. He was nice and direct with his carries, he’ll be better for his minutes and I’m sure he’ll grow as a person from the experience.

“Brad O’Neill was very strong defensively, I really liked what he was about defensively and he took some opportunities to run which is pleasing.

“Elliot Minchella played some good minutes, was solid in the middle of the field and played tough. He probably didn’t get his hands on the ball as much as he probably wanted to in terms of that ball-playing role that he plays at Hull KR, but that’s probably a reflection of the limited practice that we’ve done.

“All four of those will certainly be a lot better for the experience and they will go back to their clubs with that in mind, focus on playing well for their club, and that should allow them to be considered at the end of the season for the Samoa Tests.”

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Last admitted that it wasn’t a vintage performance from England and that lessons will be learned ahead of the two-match Test series against World Cup finalists Samoa on home soil this autumn.

He added: “We’ve had a fair bit of disruption this week, obviously my non-appearance on the first day due to a flight issue, Shaun Wane’s issue with his ankle operation, it (the win) is probably a reflection of the week we’ve had: a little bit disjointed, some really good parts of the game and some ordinary parts but it is a great lesson for us to learn.

“The four debutants did a good, solid job. They’ll learn a great deal from the experience and we are happy to come away from a Test match with a win. It’s Test match football, very difficult, and to come away with a win: we’re pleased with that.”

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