I always get a buzz at the start of a new season. This year, even more so.
Having been a club coach for so long, I must admit that I have missed not having a pre-season. But with the World Cup at the end of the year – and an Exiles game before that – I’ve got a different kind of buzz.
I can’t wait to see what the players and the teams deliver.
I’ll be watching every Super League game and my message to the players is simple – there are places in the England squad up for grabs.
Even if it’s a player who’s currently not in the squad, such as Jack Hughes or Chris Hill, I want them to know the door is not closed. If they’re killing it, they’re back in. It’s that simple.
I’m hoping the prospect of playing for England in a World Cup will increase the competitiveness across the board, and drive up the standards even higher.
Last season, I saw some really, really good games. But we need more of them.
I think back to Wigan-Saints at the end of last year. For 25 minutes there were no penalties, no breaks in play, no errors – that’s the standard we need more of if we’re going to be successful at the World Cup.
Not every game was as competitive as I’d have liked, and I’m hoping this season there is more intensity in more matches.
There is some real talent in this country and, over the last few months, I’ve been able to speak to the players and coaches many times.
It’s been tough because of the Covid restrictions – I’ve had countless meetings over Zoom – but I’ve still been able to get a lot into the players and, when we’re able to get together next month, they’ll know all about me, what I expect from them and how we’ll play. The All Stars game in the summer is an important fixture for me. I want England to play an opponent who can really challenge us – frankly, I need a match which we could lose – and, given the number of quality overseas players in this competition, the All Stars will give us that.
I’ve been a club coach when there’s been a bit of a separation with the the England set-up, and I’ve told the club coaches that won’t happen this year. If Kristian Woolf tells me Jonny Lomax is sore and can’t train at one of our camps, he doesn’t train. We want healthy players and we want to send them back healthy.
I’ve got to say, hand on heart, the buy-in from every coach, every CEO, every chairman, has been great.
Everyone has been behind me and my team, they’ve given me any help I’ve needed. Everyone knows a successful World Cup would be fantastic for the sport in this country, and I’ll be doing everything I can to make sure we achieve that.(Shaun Wane was speaking to Phil Wilkinson)