England coach Shaun Wane has revealed Alex Walmsley and Sam Tomkins would be at the forefront of his thoughts if any internationals were upcoming.
Wane may have to wait until next year for his first match as national team boss after this autumn’s Ashes series against Australia was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Yet that has not stopped him from keeping a keen eye on Super League since the competition resumed earlier this month and two players have already stood out.
St Helens prop Walmsley appears to have revelled under the new ‘six-again’ rule, delivering some powerful displays for the champions, and Wane has already told the 30-year-old his thoughts.
“I phoned him the other day,” Wane said. “I don’t make many phone calls like that but I told him I was impressed.
“This rule – I thought it could have broken him and he’s relished it. He’s carrying the ball strong, he’s doing the things I want him to do and if I was picking the team today he’d be in it. I told him that.
“I’ve been very, very impressed with him and there’s a massive improvement in him as well.”
Wane also feels 31-year-old Tomkins, his former full-back at Wigan, is getting back to his best in what is now his second season at Catalans Dragons.
“He’s at the front (of the queue) at the minute,” said Wane, looking ahead to the 2021 World Cup. “He’s the form player isn’t he?
“He’s really, really good. His vision – when you’re watching as a coach and you’re thinking they need to do this, Catalans do it at the right time as he’s just smart.
“I think his form is fantastic but is there anyone else who can take over that and make sure they get picked? That’s what it’s all going to be about.”
Wane is also keeping watch on Australia’s NRL, where a number of potential members of his World Cup squad already ply their trade.
I think they need to stay here and prove themselves.
However, the three-time Grand Final-winning coach has urged up-and-coming players tempted by the opportunity to play Down Under not to make the move too soon.
Wane said: “I think they need to stay here and prove themselves like John Bateman did and Ryan Sutton has done.
“It is a big ask for those young players and I would like them to stay here and have success here, then they’ve earned the right to get over there.”