How Shaun Wane Is Injecting A World Cup Final Mentality Into England's Players

England boss Shaun Wane remains adamant he can assemble a squad capable of winning the RLWC
12:30, 15 Jun 2022

Frustrated by inactivity, unavailability and a ticking World Cup clock, England boss Shaun Wane remains adamant he can assemble a squad capable of winning it. 

This weekend’s game against a Combined Nations All Stars side - made up of a selection of overseas players competing in the Betfred Super League - may not have the cut, thrust and make up of what Wane will want this autumn, but it does give the head coach his first proper look at his squad this year. 

“I want to win the game and that is the most important thing,” Wane tells The Sportsman ahead of Saturday’s fixture in Warrington. “But I also want a good camp, a bit of fun, for the players to get to know each other, to learn things and understand me a bit better.”


After winning three Grand Finals with Wigan, Wane has been a frustrated observer since taking on his dream job at the start of 2020 in the lead up to a World Cup that should have taken place last year.

He instead oversaw a defeat in last year’s All Stars game in his first match in charge, followed by a win over France at the end of the season. He had three training sessions in the build up to that game last October, and prior to this week’s camp in Wigan had not managed another one since. England’s first World Cup match is on October 15 against Samoa.

Shaun Wane
Shaun Wane

Super League clubs have held sway in the governance of British rugby league since opting to split from the Rugby Football League in 2018, and although that unnecessary and expensive division is in the process of being rectified, it has certainly impaired Wane’s attempts to gain any kind of momentum to drive the international side forward. 

In basic terms, to build a squad capable of getting close to Australia and New Zealand on home soil he could have done with seeing his players a bit more.

And when asked by The Sportsman how his spell in charge of England has been so far, Wane was pretty honest. 

“Nothing has really happened since I took the job, and a lot of the players are still in the NRL. 

“I like to plan for things going wrong and we can lose loads of players. Leading up to the World Cup we could have a disaster with injuries so we need to be organised, we need lots of players, we need our strongest 17 and a 17 behind that and then a 17 behind that. And those players need to be ready. Everybody needs that level of competition.”

Wane is setting the bar high with his England project. The only goal is to win the World Cup. Therefore the match he is planning for is the World Cup final. Every decision therefore is made with that in mind, including selecting players who he and his coaching staff feel are good enough to win a World Cup final against Australia or New Zealand. 

“That is true,” says Wane. “I do speak to the players in that way, when I see something good or something bad I do ask what would happen if that was the World Cup final. Is that a World Cup final play, or error? That is our terminology and I know it is a tough school but the players are always under pressure and we need to do something in this competition and our standards need to be very, very high.”

Wane says he wants five players fighting for every position. In truth he doesn’t have that depth of quality, even when the English players in the NRL become available at the end of the year.

He must also try and tempt hooker James Roby out of international retirement and deal with the same choice taken by another senior player, after winger Jermaine MGillvary opted out just months ahead of the showpiece tournament.

James Roby
James Roby

“McGillvary is a setback,” Wane admits. “Regardless of his form with Huddersfield, when he plays for his country he is outstanding. Without a shadow of a doubt he would have played this weekend. But I understand, I do totally understand his reasons.”

And Wane must also hope a change of scenery from a miserable season at Warrington will spark key half-back George Williams to rediscover his best form, so strangely lacking this season.  

“I know George as well as anybody and what he can do,” Wane adds. “I know he can play and am very confident he can deliver for us. I know how passionate he is and how much he wants to perform.”

Saturday’s fixture may have its critics, but Wane and England want and need to be battle-hardened. It is fixture they lost last year and a game they can scarcely afford to struggle in this time, such is the need to get the home fans behind and believing in their push for World Cup glory.

“I think it will be close, very aggressive, and a real test. I know Ellery Hanley will want to win the game and will have his players pumped and ready so it will be a good hit out no question.”

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