England boss Shaun Wane hails ‘throwback’ star after influential display in Tonga victory

Drew Darbyshire
Jack Welsby England Alamy

England celebrate a try against Tonga - Alamy

Shaun Wane was full of praise for the role Jack Welsby played in captaining England in their 22-18 win over Tonga.

Wane handed the captain’s armband to St Helens superstar Welsby ahead of England’s 22-18 win over Tonga on Sunday in the absence of suspended skipper George Williams.

“He’s an outstanding talent,” Wane said of Welsby in his post-match press conference.

“I loved coaching him in the World Cup last year and getting him again has been so enjoyable.

“He’s just like a throwback to the eighties, he’s just a really good player and he does things like he just would when he was at school.”

Welsby produced a stellar display in their series opening win over Tonga, which included a stunning cut-out pass to set up winger Tom Johnstone who raced over for a try out wide.

“He’s a special player,” Johnstone said of Welsby after the game.

“He’s thrown (that pass) it a few times in training and things like that.

“You’ve just got to expect anything from him and when you see the tight (defence) you’ve just got to do it, so you’ve just got to wait for it.”

Wane said he was impressed with the performance of Welsby in his role as captain, who became England’s youngest ever skipper.

“He’s killed it,” Wane said.

“He’s just nailed his captain’s speech after the game. I saw George (Williams) staring at him really upset! But he nailed it.

“He’s going to be a future captain, definitely.”

Whilst England won their opening game of the series against Tonga, Wane said they were already looking to make improvements for next week’s game in Huddersfield, with Welsby leading the charge.

“They (Tonga) jammed a few times and stopped our defence quite a few times but we’ll hopefully fix that,” Wane added.

“We’ve just been having a conversation (in the changing rooms) on ways of fixing that so he’s onto that already – and that’s Jack all over.”

Tonga boss Kristian Woolf praises England skipper Jack Welsby

Tonga coach Kristian Woolf, who guided St Helens to three Super League titles between 2020 and 2022, praised Welsby in his post-match press conference.

“I’ve got enormous respect for Jack and the way he plays the game and who he is as a young man as well,” Woolf said.

“He’s exceptional and I couldn’t have been prouder seeing him named as the England captain. I think it’s extremely deserved.

“I thought we did a pretty good job on Jack to be honest, he’s one of them blokes that when he gets the ball he doesn’t necessarily know what he’s going to do and you’ve got to be alert for anything.”

Shaun Wane pleased with opening win against Tonga

Wane said he was happy with his side’s display over Tonga – but believes there’s plenty of room for improvement in next Saturday’s match in Huddersfield.

We were really good but not perfect,” he added.

“I’m happy we won a test match against a team, but I do honestly know that we can improve massively on that.

“We did good things but not for long enough periods.”

England’s second match of their series against Tonga takes place at the John Smith’s Stadium next Saturday, 2:30pm kick-off.

READ NEXT: Emotional England ace Mikey Lewis reflects on try-scoring international debut: ‘I loved every second’