Wakefield coach Chris Chester has backed his winger Tom Johnstone to make England’s World Cup squad.
Johnstone’s two tries in Wakefield’s opening round defeat to Leeds will serve as a timely reminder for England coach Shaun Wane, who is due to announce his latest squad in early April in preparation for the mid-season game against the Combined Nations All Stars.
“We’re fortunate that (assistant coach) Andy Last works with the England set-up and we’ve seen some things in video that Shaun wants Tom to work on,” said Chester.
“He shouldn’t be far away come the end of year. He’s a special talent and he will get better as the weeks go on. He didn’t play in our friendly against Dewsbury.
“I thought he carried the ball really strong and him and Bill (Tupou) were a real handful on that left edge.”
Johnstone, who has made an art form of acrobatic close-range finishes, showed he can also play with guile and panache and his second 80-metre try of the game locked the scores at 22-22 early in the second half.
But the Rhinos had the final say and secured the victory with impressive teenager Jack Broadbent’s first ever Super League try on the hour.
Chester was disappointed his side failed to build on a 16-4 lead but says there are plenty of positives to take from the opening game and he was encouraged with the debut of Samoan half-back Mason Lino.
“I thought Mason was good,” he said. “That combination (with Jacob Miller) will get better.
“I was disappointed with our end of sets, I thought the last-tackle plays were the difference between the two sides.
“We put ourselves in a fantastic position – at 16-4 we looked like we had got the upper hand – but we came up with indiscipline with the ball.
“I thought we were our own worst enemies, we needed to be better at shutting that half down. Leeds caught us napping a few times, especially on that right edge.
“We scored some good tries, we just needed a bit more grit in certain areas. The game is all about fine margins.
“Scoring 22 points, you’d like to think that would be enough. But there are definitely some positives, it’s a good starting block.”