Injury-plagued England ring changes ahead of final Tonga test with notable omission from Shaun Wane’s squad

Ben Olawumi
George Williams, Jack Welsby, England

George Williams (left) and Jack Welsby (right) sing the national anthem ahead of England's mid-season international against France - Alamy

Plagued by injuries, England have made four changes to their 19-man squad ahead of the third and final test against Tonga this weekend, with two of those definitely enforced.

Shaun Wane called up both Morgan Smithies and Josh Thewlis into the camp earlier this week in preparation for Saturday’s clash at Headingley.

Both of those – unsurprisingly – have been named in his squad alongside returning captain George Williams. The half-back has now served his two game suspension earned in action for Warrington Wolves, and Wane hasn’t made any secret of his impending return.

The question on everyone’s lips has been who the unlucky youngster would be to drop out – Mikey Lewis or Harry Smith.

Lewis scooped the Man of the Match award after a try on his senior international debut against Tonga in St Helens a fortnight ago, and impressed again in part two of the series last weekend at the John Smith’s Stadium, but is the one to miss out this time around. He isn’t in the squad, with Smith keeping his place, set to line up in Leeds alongside skipper Williams.

The other man to come into the squad is young Wigan Warriors prop Tyler Dupree, who could pick up a second senior cap this weekend.

England lead the series 2-0 following victories at St Helens (22-18) and Huddersfield (14-4).

Injuries plague England ahead of third and final Tonga test this weekend

While Lewis’ exit from the 19-man squad is a tactical choice from chief Wane, at least two of the other three departures are enforced through injury.

The England head coach revealed major doubts over NRL star Victor Radley’s fitness in his pre-match press conference, missing out with a groin problem.

There’s fresh injury news where Toby King is concerned with the centre – who crossed for a try in the first test – picking up an ankle strain.

St Helens winger Tommy Makinson had already missed last weekend’s victory with a wrist problem which is worse than first believed, so he misses out again with Warrington speedster Matty Ashton set to deputise oncemore, looking to build on a brace of tries last time out.

The only other man to drop out from last weekend’s squad is Wigan veteran Liam Farrell. He sat out the first test, and was only brought on in Huddersfield with three minutes remaining. Wane admitted post-match at the John Smith’s Stadium that he’d apologised to the 33-year-old, but it remains unclear whether his absence for the third test is injury related or not.

Leigh Leopards prop Robbie Mulhern has been named in both of the 19-strong squad’s so far this autumn by Wane, but has on both occasions been the man to miss out on the matchday 18. He could well be in line to get at least some minutes on Saturday.

Shaun Wane delivers verdict on final squad of 2023

Boss Wane said: “I’m really pleased to be able to give everyone who was named in my original squad the opportunity to feature in this series.

“Robbie, Tyler and Ben have all had impressive seasons at club level and deserve their call-up into the side for this final game against Tonga.

“It’s great to be able to welcome George back into the fold as England captain. Mikey [Lewis] has been brilliant in the opening two games, but I had always said George would come back in once his suspension was served

“I’m really confident that the squad I’ve selected can get the job done and finish the series in style in front of a packed house in Leeds.”

England’s 19-man squad for Headingley showdown with Tonga

Matty Ashton

John Bateman

Tom Burgess

Daryl Clark

Ben Currie

Tyler Dupree

Chris Hill

Tom Johnstone

Matty Lees

Mike McMeeken

Robbie Mulhern

Harry Newman

Harry Smith

Morgan Smithies

Josh Thewlis

Danny Walker

Jack Welsby

Elliott Whitehead

George Williams (captain)

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