Shaun Wane ready for World Cup opener after being ‘bored for two years’

Shaun Wane ready for World Cup opener after being ‘bored for two years’

The waiting is over for Shaun Wane, who will finally get the chance to coach internationally on the main stage when the 2021 World Cup kicks off in Newcastle on Saturday.

The treble Grand Final-winning Wigan boss has endured a frustrating time since his appointment, initially on a two-year deal, as the successor to Australian Wayne Bennett in February 2020.

A month later the Covid-19 pandemic struck which put paid to the Ashes Series in the autumn of that year and forced the postponement of the World Cup.

England squad announcement and press conference – Worsley Park Marriott Hotel and Country Club
England head coach Shaun Wane admits the World Cup has been a long time coming (PA Images/Nick Potts)

Wane, whose contract was extended by 12 months to take in the delayed tournament, has had contests against the Combined Nations All Stars and matches against France and Fiji but admits the serious business begins now, starting with the opening game against star-studded Samoa.

“It’s been a long time coming,” he said. “I’ve been bored for the last two years.

“I am desperate for this tournament but my job as head coach is to make the complicated very simple. I need to prioritise what’s going to help us get a win against Samoa.

“We performed okay against Fiji but this is a different challenge this weekend against a really good Samoan team with six players from the NRL winners.

“We need to be good to win but they need to be good as well. It’s going to be full-on and I’m very confident that my players are going to deliver.

“They’ve got big athletes, man for man they’re 10-15 kilos heavier than us.

“We’re a different breed, we’re not as big but we’re very athletic and we have things in our game that we believe can trouble Samoa.”

Grouped with Samoa, first-timers Greece and France, England’s route to the knockout stages looked something of a formality when the draw was made by the Duke of Sussex at Buckingham Palace in January 2020 but the Pacific Island nation has since been boosted by the defection of a host players from Australia and New Zealand.

Rugby League World Cup 2021 Tournament Launch – Museum of Science and Industry
England’s Sam Tomkins and Samoa’s Junior Paulo flank the World Cup trophy at the captains’ line up (PA Images/Martin Rickett)

Samoa are now being tipped to emulate the rise of Tonga, who beat New Zealand and pushed England all the way in the 2017 World Cup and have since toppled Australia and Great Britain to climb to second in the world rankings.

With the Kiwis expected to be a force once more, Australia will have four serious challengers for their title and Wane believes that is good for the sport.

“They’ve made this tournament the most competitive one there has been,” he said. “It will be great for the spectators.

“Nobody really knows who’s going to win whereas in the past that’s not been the case. I’m happy there’s a really good spread. Every single game is going to be a real test.

“We’ve always been the underdog and will be again this weekend. That’s when we’re at our best.”

England captain Sam Tomkins, who played the majority of his career under Wane at Wigan, reckons he could be the man to end England’s 50-year wait to get their hands on the trophy.

Rugby League World Cup 2021 Tournament Launch – Museum of Science and Industry
England captain Sam Tomkins says Shaun Wane is the man to deliver the World Cup for England (PA Images/Martin Rickett)

“Shaun’s passionate and he gets that across to players quickly,” Tomkins said. “He’s very intense with the way that he coaches.

“I’ve had Shaun coaching me from 15 years of age with a few breaks in between so I know what he’s about but I know from the players that have been coached by him for the very first time that he is full-on and he makes sure you’re fired up for games.

“The World Cup is something special. I’m very proud to be English and proud to pull on the England jersey.

“It’s a tough task, we’re not favourites but we’ve got a great group of players who are desperate to do something special.

“We’ve just fallen short in the past. We know this year we’ll have to be better than we ever have been before because it’s tougher competition than it’s ever been before.

“Whoever wins it will deserve it because there’s some good teams in this competition. The boys are bouncing, we just want to get going now.”