England boss Shaun Wane admits he found it difficult telling Mikey Lewis and Josh Thewlis they weren’t in his side to face France, but isn’t ruling out future opportunities for the pair.
Hull KR half-back Lewis and Warrington winger Thewlis spent last week in the England camp ahead of their mid-season international against France after being called up Wane’s 19-man squad for the first time.
Lewis and Thewlis, who have both played for England Knights previously, were the two players to not make the matchday 17, but Wane praised the duo for their outstanding attitude and reaction to being left out.
“Having that conversation with him (Mikey) and Josh wasn’t easy,” Wane said after their 64-0 thrashing of France. “Normally I find them quite easy, but that wasn’t.
“The way they trained and applied themselves, they’ve been impeccable and are a credit to their clubs.
“Being so disappointed, the way they got behind the players has impressed people more, so they’ve really put their hands up those two players.”
The England boss says Lewis and Thewlis will get their opportunities in the future if they continue their rich vein of form at club level.
He added: “If they keep going the way they’re going and Mikey fixes what he needs to fix, then he’ll have a really good chance.”
Shaun Wane proud of England debutants in France demolition
Wane handed out England debuts to 13 players in their 64-0 victory over France in Warrington on Saturday – Ash Handley, Tom Holroyd (Leeds), Toby King, Jake Wardle, Harry Smith, Ethan Havard, Morgan Smithies (all Wigan), Matty Ashton, Danny Walker, Matty Nicholson, James Harrison (all Warrington), Jez Litten (Hull KR) and Tyler Dupree (Salford).
Speaking after the game, Wane said: “I was really happy. There were certain things I wanted them to work on and they’ve delivered. It was outstanding and those 13 debutants are a credit to their Super League clubs and their chairmen.
“My talk before the game was about Tonga and how we can put a stamp on our position, so credit to the RFL for getting that series on. It is something for us to look forward to and conversations with players and clubs will be easier because of that.”
What next for England?
England’s three-match test series with Tonga has finally been locked in for this autumn, and so have the stadiums and dates.
It will be the first time the two nations have met since the memorable 2017 World Cup semi-final in Auckland, which saw England book a place in the final with a pulsating 20-18 victory.
All three of this year’s games will be played in the traditional heartland areas in the north of England.
World champions St Helens will host the first test at the Totally Wicked Stadium on Sunday, October 22. Tonga coach Kristian Woolf will return to St Helens, where he led the Saints to three consecutive Super League titles between 2020-22.
A week later, the second test will be played at the John Smith’s Stadium in Huddersfield on Saturday, October 28.
The test series will come to a conclusion at Headingley in Leeds on Saturday, November 4.