Gareth Southgate to help England’s preparations for Rugby League World Cup

Gareth Southgate will remain a part of England’s preparations for the Rugby League World Cup, coach Shaun Wane says.

The England manager was a guest speaker at Wane’s first get-together with his elite training squad in Manchester and, according to Wane, will be a spectator at the World Cup, which starts at Newcastle’s St James’ Park on October 15.

Wane says he intends to bring in other high-profile figures to aid his preparations in addition to Southgate, who also visited Harlequins to help them prepare for their European Champions’ Cup quest.

“He’s going to get involved with other sessions and come to games in the World Cup,” Wane said. “He loves his league and he loves his sport. He spoke very well to the players.

“He sat through the meeting and we were the last to leave the hotel. He had lots of questions, I can see why he’s a successful manager, his thirst for learning is very much like mine.

“He sent me a long message the day after about what he got from the meeting which was really impressive.

“We’re going to bring in many more speakers. It’s always a good message for players to hear about other sports and other ideas how to make things better.”

England Head Coach Unveiling – University of Bolton Stadium
England head coach Shaun Wane was impressed by what Gareth Southgate had to say to his players (PA Images/Anthony Devlin)

Meanwhile, Wane says Brisbane Broncos’ Lancashire-born centre Herbie Farnworth is back in his plans.

The 22-year-old Farnworth, who was once on Manchester United’s books, was dropped from Wane’s elite squad 12 months ago after failing to meet his standards off the pitch.

“He’s gone on the meetings I’ve had with the NRL players on time,” Wane said. “People might think that’s nothing but to me it’s everything.

“I watch him play every week and he’s doing well with Brisbane. He’s a talent and a good athlete and he’s playing really well. I can definitely see him playing in the World Cup.”

Wane’s contact with his NRL-based England players has been via zoom over the last two years but will have the opportunity to speak face to face with them when he flies over for the Magic Weekend in Brisbane from May 13-15.

“I’m hoping to catch up with all of them while I’m over there,” he said. “That’s the whole point, to spend time with them and make sure they see what the Super League-based players are seeing. It’s important to me that they don’t miss out.”

One NRL-based player already ruled out of the World Cup is Canberra hooker Josh Hodgson, which reduces Wane’s options for the number nine jersey but he says he will not make an effort to persuade James Roby to change his mind about retirement.

Roby, who recently played his 500th game for St Helens and has started his final season in impressive form, announced his retirement from the international game at the end of the 2021 season.

Wane can still call on Daryl Clark, Michael McIlorum and Paul McShane but hints Roby could yet play if he performs a U-turn.

St Helens v Warrington Wolves – Betfred Super League – Totally Wicked Stadium
St Helens captain James Roby could still play in the World Cup but he would have to make the call (PA Images/Martin Rickett)

“James Roby’s form is fantastic,” Wane said. “He’s made his decision and I probably wouldn’t like to interfere with that unless he approached me.”

Another player ruled out is uncapped St Helens scrum-half Lewis Dodd, who would have been a World Cup contender, according to Wane.

“He would have figured in the World Cup,” he said. “He’s a very talented player and it’s sad what happened to him.

“But it just makes (England Knights coach) Paul Anderson’s job more important, to make sure we have Plan B and other players coming through.”