St Helens star Jack Welsby will become England’s youngest-ever captain on Sunday as he leads Shaun Wane’s side out against Tonga, an accolade he describes as a ‘dream come true’.
As confirmed this morning, the 22-year-old has been chosen to don the armband on Sunday in the first instalment of the three-game series.
Boss Wane has been forced to select a second skipper in the same number of games due to the absence of George Williams through suspension. He will also miss next week’s clash against Kristian Woolf’s Tonga at Huddersfield Giants’ John Smith’s Stadium.
While Welsby may only be a stand-in skipper, with the door left open for another leadership switch come Huddersfield, being handed the armband for a game on his own patch at the Totally Wicked Stadium is something which he wasn’t even contemplating.
Jack Welsby to become England’s youngest-ever captain
The Saints ace will step out at the front of the England pack for just a seventh cap on Sunday. After appearing against the Combined Nations All Stars last year, he then scored a try on his ‘official’ debut as Wane’s men swept aside Samoa in the World Cup opener at St James’ Park.
An ever-present in the tournament, the full-back now becomes the first St Helens player to captain England since James Graham in 2010.
He also follows Andy Farrell in taking the armband on the international stage at a young age with the former Wigan Warriors ace captaining Great Britain at 21 back in 1996.
Welsby said: “I’m really excited to be named England captain, and if I’m honest, I’m extremely humbled. It’s a dream come true.
“It’s a huge accolade for me and to be leading the lads out on Sunday in front of my family is going to be a huge honour. There’s also the added bonus that it will be at St Helens, but nothing really trumps being England captain.”
“When Shaun came over and spoke to me, it took me by surprise, and wasn’t what I was expecting at all.”
England boss Shaun Wane ‘privileged’ to hand armband to St Helens star
The 22-year-old has won it all at club level – a World Club Challenge, a Challenge Cup, three League Leaders’ Shields and three Grand Finals, scoring the winning try in the 2020 showpiece after the final hooter against hometown club Wigan Warriors.
He’s also already twice-over been nominated for the Man of Steel, missing out narrowly in both 2022 and 2023 respectively, but crowned the Super League Young Player of the Year last term.
England boss Wane has made no secret of his shine towards Welsby, a three-time Dream Team inclusion, and tips him to be the future of the country on the international front.
The chief added: “It’s a massive privilege for me to give Jack the chance to captain his country.
“Since coming into the England squad last year, I’ve been really impressed with Jack’s performances on the field but his actions and behaviour away from the field have impressed me just as much.
“We have a lot of senior players within the squad who are natural leaders but with the international schedule locked in for the next four years we need to look to the future and Jack is a massive part of that.”