Shaun Wane: England coach expects Exiles Test and further pre-World Cup game for 2021

By Dave WoodsBBC rugby league correspondent
Gareth Ellis and Lee Mossop tackle Pat Richards
England previously played against Exiles teams featuring Pat Richards (pictured) and Steve Menzies

Head coach Shaun Wane is hopeful England will play two warm-up matches before this autumn's Rugby League World Cup, which kicks off in October.

A game against the Exiles - a team made up of overseas stars playing in Super League - who they have met on two previous occasions, is already pencilled in for the last weekend in June, as long as domestic fixture chaos does not get in the way.

Wane is also pushing for the Rugby Football League to organise a match 10 days before England's opening tournament fixture against Samoa in Newcastle on 23 October, with Fiji the possible opposition.

Despite Super League clubs still planning how the domestic season will pan out, Wane is confident he will get the go-ahead for the Exiles match and that clubs will agree to release players for both teams.

"It's still on, there's nothing changed," Wane says. "There was a fixture meeting yesterday and there's talk about the season being put back, that doesn't alter that weekend.

"As far as I'm concerned the Exiles game is still on and I've not been told anything different. I want the Exiles team to be as strong as possible.

"From my point of view, that game is very important to me in my preparation for the World Cup."

John Bateman and Josh Hodgson tackle New Zealand's Ken Maumalo
England's last Test remains the 2018 New Zealand series match in Leeds, although some players did tour with Great Britain in 2019

Still waiting for England bow

Former Wigan boss Wane was appointed England head coach 12 months ago, but has yet to take charge of an international game.

Last Autumn's Ashes series against Australia was cancelled, a victim of the Covid-19 pandemic.

But one warm-up game would not be enough for Wane, who wants a further sharpening of his squad before the big kick-off in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

"When I was in club land I liked playing a game 10 days before the start of Super League and I'm trying to do the same here." he added.

"So we're going to get a game 10 days before our first game before Samoa, that's what the plan is.

"There's a chance with Fiji, but there's nothing been set in stone yet."

England's Gareth Widdop against Italy in 2013
Not all England warm-ups have been a success: in 2013 Steve McNamara's side lost to Italy in the lead-up to the tournament start, but still made the semis

'I'm missing working with players so much'

World Cup organisers will meet in March to take the first step towards deciding whether this year's event can go ahead.

They have to consider all options, including playing the tournament as planned with stadiums full, playing in front of socially distanced, reduced crowds, or postponing the competition for 12 months.

The decision will depend on the state of the pandemic at that stage

Wane is focusing on the tournament going ahead as originally envisaged, and a 12-month postponement would leave him utterly frustrated.

His last actual coaching assignment was with his hometown team Wigan, leading them to the 2018 Grand Final win before he switched temporarily to a role with Scottish Rugby Union.

"If it gets put back to next year I need a job coaching, because I can't go any longer." he said.

"I need to get on the field with players and train and work out ways of winning games. I'm missing it so much.

"Frustrating is not the word, it's something deeper than that. I live and breathe coaching rugby league players and I've not done it for quite a while now."

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