Canberra Raiders star Elliott Whitehead will officially call time on his international career following the final test against Tonga this weekend, and boss Shaun Wane has lauded him ahead of his final England appearance.
The forward turned 34 in September, and was set to hang up his boots internationally after the World Cup last autumn, but opted to play on and help Wane’s side out for one more year following a disappointing semi-final exit to Samoa.
Like the rest of his England colleagues who ply their trade Down Under, Whitehead wasn’t involved in the mid-season international against France.
He has returned for this autumn’s test series against Tonga though, which England clinched with a game to spare last weekend with victory over Kristian Woolf’s side in Huddersfield.
Now, the Bradford-born second-rower prepares to make his final bow in England colours as the series draws to a close with the third and final test in Leeds on Saturday. The Headingley clash will see him pick up his 27th and final cap for the country, added to by four for Great Britain.
England coach Shaun Wane lauds ‘outstanding’ NRL star Elliott Whitehead ahead of forward’s final international appearance
Whitehead has gone on to captain Canberra, featuring in an NRL Grand Final with them in 2019.
At Tuesday’s press conference, Wane said: “A few people said to me before I got England job that I’d love him. When I met him and coached him, trained with him and got to know him, I get that now.
“He does a lot of unseen things only a coach will see. He’s admired by his team-mates, he’s got a good balance in his life, he knows how to train hard, and he’s an outstanding individual. I rate him highly.
“He’s one of the best English players to go over there. He’s played a lot of games, you listen to Ricky Stuart (Canberra head coach), and I totally understand that now, what his appeal is.”
The expectation is that he will go around for one more year at club level with them, and then retire, with plans to remain in the country with his family.