Warrington Wolves ace Matty Ashton will step out for England against Tonga this afternoon, and coach Shaun Wane is ‘genuinely excited’ to see another of his youngsters shine on the international stage.
Winger Ashton came into the camp for the three-game series at the bottom of the pecking order, with veteran Tommy Makinson, Super League’s top try-scorer Tom Johnstone and NRL ace Dom Young ahead of him.
Young though was hospitalised before the first test with an infection which has ruled him out of the entire three-part series.
And after last weekend’s 22-18 victory at the Totally Wicked Stadium, which saw Johnstone score a brace of tries in the second half to win the opener, St Helens stalwart Makinson has been sidelined with a wrist injury.
England boss Shaun Wane ‘genuinely excited’ about Warrington Wolves starlet Matty Ashton
Boss Wane revealed Makinson’s injury earlier in the week, and didn’t hesitate to show his trust in Ashton, who will pick up his second cap having featured in the thumping mid-season victory over France at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
The England head coach said: “It’s really important (to harness the younger members of the squad), and that’s why I made the call so quickly.
“Some people might wait and wait, and see whether Tommy’s fit or not by Friday, but I don’t want to do that.
“I want to commit to Matty. Tommy’s out, we’ll look after him and make sure that he’s ready for the third test, but I want to commit with Matty this week and I want him to have the confidence.
“We’ll go through all the video with him as we normally do, that we show on Tonga, and he’s our winger. I’m genuinely excited about how he’s going to perform.”
Wane ‘committed to trying to win three tests’, insists focus on task at hand and not giving game time to everyone
Unlike Tonga, who have already named their matchday squad, we’ll have to wait and see who Wane selects in the 17 from his 19-man squad.
Ahead of that selection, there are six of the remaining 22 men in camp that are yet to get minutes, including Ashton and suspended captain George Williams, who Wane has already confirmed will return in next weekend’s third and final test at Headingley.
Elsewhere, Ashton’s Warrington team-mate Ben Currie and Leigh Leopards prop Robbie Mulhern missed out on the first test alongside Wigan Warriors duo Liam Farrell and Tyler Dupree on the back of the Super League Grand Final.
Wane told Love Rugby League that he isn’t sure whether everyone will get game time from the camp, but insists that’s not his main concern.
He said: “I’m not sure yet, it’s a good question. I’m just committed to trying to win three tests, and there won’t be a part of me that feels sorry for a player.
“If a player doesn’t play minutes, then he doesn’t play minutes. I just need to win three tests, and I think that all of the players understand that.”