England begin their preparations for a home World Cup later in the year on Friday evening when they take on a specially put together ‘Combined All-Stars’ squad in a friendly at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
England harbour hopes of winning the World Cup later in the year and it will be interesting to see what they can get out of this match with Shaun Wane in charge for the first time. Combined All-Stars have the chance to put a dent in the plans.
Where to watch
The match will be shown live on the Sky Sports Main Event, Sky Sports Arena and Sky Sports Mix channels with the build-up beginning at 8pm and the match itself kicking off at 8.15pm.
England have waited a while to get back into action after their international fixtures fell foul of the pandemic last year so you would imagine those selected by Shaun Wane will be chomping at the bit to get out on the paddock and get stuck in. England don’t have many chances to showcase their talents and lay a marker down ahead of the World Cup but this would be one of them, although you wonder exactly what they can gain from it with their opponents made up of a ‘best of the rest’ from Super League.
What Wane can find out is whether certain combinations work. He is without his Australian based players for this match obviously so it is the chance for some of those who may not be in the starting 13 to prove that they should be in there, so there is a lot for certain players to gain out of the match. England look a little light in the forwards for this match which might be an issue and are probably without either of their starting half-backs.
The opposition to England in these mid-season friendlies have come in many guises, the most famous of which were the ‘Exiles’. They have now been replaced by the ‘Combined All-Stars’ which was expected to be the best overseas talent in the Super League but Shaun Wane released a few of his initial squad to line up against his England team here, so there is very much a mix and mash makeup of this side.
It looks a fairly strong side right across the park though it has to be said and if they can gel nicely they could put up a decent showing here. They won’t have had much time to work together and there are 10 different clubs represented in this team so their ability to gel is very much an issue. I guess motivation is another question mark. The four or five England players on show should be up for it but this comes in the middle of a long hard season for the others so how interested they will be in effectively a nothing game for them remains to be seen.
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England will be without the likes of George Williams, the Burgess’ and Gareth Widdop as they go about getting a win in Shaun Wane’s first game in charge. Alex Walmsley has also left the squad due to an injury leaving England a little short of mite in the forward pack.
Combined All-Stars were boosted by the availability of Jake Connor, Jermaine McGilvary and Jackson Hastings for this match. They will go up against the side they hope to be playing for in four months time. Aidan Sezer, Ricky Leutele, Chris Satae and Matt Prior catch the eye as players in the squad.
The onus is on England to win this match. Whatever gets said it will not look good if England don’t win this game but in terms of making the match competitive it might have been a masterstroke to release three or four players and put them into the Combined All-Stars squad. That will provide a competitive edge to the game is nothing else and actually when you look at the forward pack of this All-Stars squad they could give England problems.
Assuming it is Jackson Hastings and Aidan Sezer in the halves you would think the ‘visitors’ would have the edge in that department and they definitely have more of an edge in the centres where they have a number of specialists where England are mixing and matching due to injury. I still think England will win the match but you can get the Combined All-Stars with a 12.5 point start and that just feels a couple of points too many.
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