St Helens star ‘a good chance’ to succeed Sam Tomkins as England’s number one, says Shaun Wane

Josh McAllister
Jack Welsby scores for St Helens

Jack Welsby scores against Leeds Rhinos during the Round 20 fixture at the Totally Wicked Stadium. Photo by Steve Flynn/News Images.

England boss Shaun Wane says St Helens’ Jack Welsby has a ‘good chance’ of being his first-choice full-back for the upcoming test series against Tonga.

Welsby, 22, represented England at last year’s delayed World Cup on home soil in the halves alongside George Williams, with Sam Tomkins leading the side as captain.

34-year-old Tomkins will hang up the boots at the end of the year following an ongoing injury to his left knee, although never officially retired from the international game.

Wane has revealed that the veteran full-back will be invited into the camp ahead of the first ever series with Tonga alongside NRL legend Sam Burgess, but will not feature on the field after being omitted from his initial 40-man squad.

Saints star Welsby played at full-back in the mid-season 64-0 demolishing over France at the Halliwell Jones Stadium – providing two assists in the 11-try triumph – with Wigan’s Harry Smith called up to play alongside Williams.

England will play again for the first time since then just eight days after the Grand Final in St Helens against Kristian Woolf’s Tonga, with the series also heading to Huddersfield and Leeds.

Welsby has been ever-present under Paul Wellens in the 2023 Super League campaign, producing 26 assists to date – the second most in the competition behind Bevan French (28) – alongside 10 tries.

Asked if the Saints youngster was the leading candidate for the vacant full-back role, 59-year-old Wane told media at a press conference at the Totally Wicked Stadium: “He’s a good chance.

“I’m a massive fan, he’s a good player whether it’s halves or full-back.

“It’s a good chance he’ll be in.”

Who will partner George Williams in halves?

Warrington marquee man Williams, 28, scored a hat-trick in April’s win over France alongside his debut as captain and will continue to lead the international side against Tonga.

Welsby’s potential shift to full-back will open competition for the remaining spot in the halves, with Wane sharing his views.

“Jonny [Lomax] always delivers, and I like some things what Mikey [Lewis] does, and some things what Harry [Smith] does,” he said.

“But my standards are very high, a player might come in thinking he’s played well but I don’t watch Leeds play Warrington, I watch from an international point of view.

“I’m just trying to keep them grounded because a test match is different to a Super League game and the more they understand that, the better it will be for them.”

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