England head coach Shaun Wane has backed Wigan Warriors ace Harry Smith to showcase his talent on the international front in this autumn’s three-match test series against Tonga.
The star half-back – who was just one vote away from picking up the Harry Sunderland Trophy on Saturday in Wigan’s Grand Final win at Old Trafford – was this morning named in Wane’s 24-man Three Lions squad.
23-year-old Smith has so far picked up just one senior international cap, earned earlier this year in England’s mid-season test match against France.
Having ended a season which saw criticism levelled his way with a winners’ ring, the youngster was perfect with the boot in both Wigan’s semi-final win against Hull KR and their Grand Final triumph over Catalans Dragons, 10 from 10 combined.
England boss Shaun Wane backs Harry Smith to shine on international stage
In today’s press conference at the Totally Wicked Stadium, the first of the three venues for the test series, Wane said: “It’s been a real challenge for him, but the way he’s finished and the way he’s reacted to things that he’s had to put up with this year, I admire him.
“I think he’s done really well for a young kid, and I think it’s just reward for him. The way he managed us in the Grand Final and the semis, he’s been outstanding.
“When I look at big games like the semis and the final, it’s the players who stand up in those big games, and that’s what Harry did.
“I’m not bothered about when we play the lower end teams, it’s about the big games and that’s what really impressed me, how good he was, how composed he was.
“He’s going to have another challenge again over the next few weeks where he gets picked to play against the team what’s going to put him under a lot of pressure.
“You have to get over it (criticism), you’re playing Super League and he’s a half at a club where we’ve had some great halves. With that comes pressure and it makes him grow up quicker.”
England coach discusses room for improvement in Wigan Warriors star’s game
Smith is one of four players from Wigan’s Grand Final winning pack included in Wane’s 24-man squad, joined by club captain Liam Farrell, prop Tyler Dupree and loanee Toby King who will return to parent club Warrington Wolves next term.
In highlighting the plus points in Smith’s game, Wane was quick to point out that good is never good enough, regardless of which player is being discussed.
The former Warriors chief, who still holds a role at the club, added: “There’s a few things in his game he (Smith) needs to get better at, which he’s aware of, and hopefully we’re going to see that over the next few weeks.
“He knows he needs to improve, and so do people like Jack Welsby and other players in our team. Liam Farrell does, we don’t put the cue away, everything we do is about improvement. We don’t sit around patting ourselves on the back, we have to get better.
“We fell short at the World Cup, but we have to improve, and we’re going to have to improve again on Sunday to beat a talented team.”