England coach Shaun Wane shrugged off talk about the players unavailable to him for the mid-season international against France.
Wane was joined by Jack Welsby on the top table as England held their pre-match press conference at Selco Builders Warehouse in Warrington, as part of a sponsorship deal.
Much has been made over the withdrawals to Wane’s squad, which has left him with 19 to choose from for the game at the Halliwell Jones Stadium on Saturday.
Welsby was the only St Helens who made the cut from the eight named in Wane’s 40-man training squad earlier this year.
But Wane sensibly brushed off any talk about who was missing and instead heaped praise on Welsby and a few others who have impressed him in camp.
He said: “I’m genuinely excited and looking forward to Saturday. I’m glad I’ve picked a young squad. What I wanted to see was how they behaved in camp and how they reacted in camp to intense training sessions and they’ve been absolutely fantastic.
“Jack has been around us for a long time so he knows what it’s like, so him being around these young players, helping them and giving them advice will be immense.”
Duo plus half-backs get raps from Wane
A fellow Wiganer, the rapport between Wane and Welsby was clear to see. The St Helens star is still only 22, but has won it all at club level after scooping the World Club Challenge title with the four-in-a-row Super League champions.
He only made his full England debut last year in the World Cup opener against Samoa, having turned out against the Combined Nations All Stars at stand-off midway through last year.
A spot at his usual position at full-back is more likely for Saturday, with new skipper George Williams set to line up at six, probably alongside Wigan scrum half Harry Smith.
Wane said: “He (Smith) has trained really, really well and his form has been good. Mikey Lewis played well against Cas last week and he has been really good; George’s form has been fantastic. So whilst we’ve got three good halves, and we’ve got Jonny Lomax as well, I want us to produce more. I want to find a way of making my job a lot harder.
“Jimmy Harrison has trained really well, I like him. He got interviewed last night and we saw a different side of him within the group, so he has been really good.
“Matty Ashton has killed it and trained really well. Jack (Welsby) always been really good for me but seeing these young players come through, get their first cap, has got me really excited.”