England head coach Shaun Wane insists winning is the only thing that matters, and that’s why he’ll have no qualms in dropping either Mikey Lewis or Harry Smith for George Williams’ return next week.
Captain Williams – who played under Wane at Wigan Warriors for a large chunk of his career – has missed both wins against Tonga so far through a suspension he earned in action for Warrington Wolves.
Youngsters Smith and Lewis, of Wigan & Hull KR respectively, have deputised in his absence and impressed in doing so, with the series already wrapped up.
From the off though, Wane has been open about the fact that his skipper would return to the fold as soon as permitted, and that will come on Saturday – November 4 – at Headingley as England look to seal a whitewash this autumn.
Shaun Wane makes George Williams selection admission
England chief Wane yesterday saw the series wrapped up with a 14-4 win over Kristian Woolf’s Tonga at the John Smith’s Stadium in Huddersfield.
Warrington winger Matty Ashton replaced an injured Tommy Makinson in the 13 and scored both of England’s tries, but St Helens veteran Makinson will return in Leeds, and no secret was made of that.
Likewise, Williams was always going to return regardless. Post-match in West Yorkshire, Wane conceded that Smith or Lewis being a non-starter next weekend won’t concern him.
He said: “I don’t find that hard, I honestly don’t. I don’t mean that to be arrogant, I don’t. My heart tells me who to pick, and that’s what I’ll do this week, but we’ll have a strong team and they’ll be committed and really physical.
“It’ll be on Monday morning I’ll pick the strongest team that I think can win, no question. It won’t be a long debate that.
“George will play, he’s my captain. He’s a player I admire, and I love what Mikey and Harry have done, but George will play.”
‘Winning is the only thing that matters’: England coach Wane reflects on Tonga series so far
Another experienced head in Mike McMeeken has received praise for his performance in both clashes against the visitors from the Southern Hemisphere so far this autumn, quietly going about his business with no fuss.
Wane himself picked the Catalans Dragons forward out after the first game at the Totally Wicked Stadium, and did so again when asked about those in his side who had stood out yesterday, but insisted the only thing he’s truly bothered about is winning games.
The 59-year-old coach added: “I thought our middles were good. Mike McMeeken was very good, and I thought John Bateman through the middle really tested them.
“I’m not bothered about playing well though, winning is the only thing that matters, and playing well comes second below it, so just to get the win (was the main thing).
“We’ll have a look at it in a few days when we come down off cloud nine and fix a few things up.”