Shaun Wane is confident England’s plans for a mid-season international would not be affected by a potential delay to the start of the 2021 Super League season.
Global governing body International Rugby League have slated the weekend of June 26 and 27 for mid-year internationals, with England potentially facing an Exiles team made up of Super League-based overseas players as part of their preparations for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup.
But with the UK back in lockdown due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, talks are taking place about whether the start of the Super League campaign will be pushed back from its slated kick-off date of March 11.
England head coach Wane has not been told that will impact on his plans though and is pressing ahead with preparations for that game, along with trying to organise a further warm-up match ahead of the national team’s World Cup opener against Samoa on October 23.
“Where we’re at is it’s still on,” Wane said at his first media briefing of the year on Thursday. “I know there has been talk about the season being put back, but that’s doesn’t alter that weekend.
“As far as I’m concerned, the Exiles game is still on and I’ve not been told any different. From my point of view, that game is very important to me and my preparation for the World Cup.
“When I was in club-land I liked playing a game 10 days before the start of the Super League season and I’m trying to the same here, so we get a game 10 days before we play Samoa. There’s a chance with Fiji, but nothing has been set in stone yet.”
As far as I’m concerned, the Exiles game is still on and I’ve not been told any different. From my point of view, that game is very important to me and my preparation for the World Cup.
The ongoing lockdown means World Cup organisers are having to make contingency plans as well, but Wane is not worrying about the tournament possibly being played in front of a reduced crowd or behind closed doors, or even potentially being postponed a year, unless he is told otherwise.
The former Wigan Warriors boss admitted that from a selfish point of view a delay to the 2021 season and an extended break for the players would undoubtedly benefit England’s ambitions, although he sympathised with the difficult decisions facing Super League.
“The benefits for me are the players will be fresh and enjoying their rugby again,” Wane said. “But I understand from a Super League point of view the amount of games we need to play, and I get that.
“From a selfish point of view, the fewer games they play the better shape they will be in. But whatever happens to changes with the season, Covid bubbles and how they train, it’s the same for everybody in the world.”
Wane is delighted with how supportive the clubs have been of England’s ambitions though, including being able to add Warrington Wolves’ head of performance and former international winger Ade Gardner to his backroom staff along with the Wolves’ strength and conditioning coach Chris Baron and ex-Wigan director performance Mark Bitcon.
The 56-year-old has been in regular contact with chairmen and CEO across Super League and is enthused by the help he has been offered to help the national team be successful in the tournament after finishing runners-up to Australia four years ago.
“I’m a bit embarrassed because I’ve been a club coach, but I’m really impressed with the genuine help [clubs have given],” Wane said.
“I’ve asked for things and I’ve got them, which has been absolutely outstanding, and it just shows how much they understand how important it is we have a great World Cup this year.
“It’s quite touching because they’ve got their own problems, but they’re doing everything they can to want England to succeed.”
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