WARRINGTON Guardian sports editor Mike Parsons has a stab at the England team he reckons Shaun Wane will select to face Tonga in the first Test at St Helens’ Totally Wicked Stadium on Sunday.

He feels there is a place for three of the six Warrington Wolves players named in the squad, now that George Williams' two-match ban appeal failed and is not available until the third Test.

Freshness will play a part, so those players who figured late into the play-offs will have an advantage for selection although that will not be the be-all and end-all of the decision making.

With Williams banned, it would not be a surprise to see St Helens’ Jack Welsby step in at as Harry Smith's half-back partner instead of his usual 2023 position of full-back. He has played stand-off many times before and would offer a similar running threat to Williams, while leaving Wigan's Smith to orchestrate matters.

The only other recognised half-back in the squad is Hull KR’s Mikey Lewis, though Sydney Roosters’ Victor Radley is versatile enough to provide some cover for a spell.

Playing Welsby in the halves though would appear to mean his clubmate Tommy Makinson switching to full-back, again a role he has played many times but not for a while and he is more traditionally recognised as a winger.

Wane is not short of wingers though, and he has both the NRL and Super League top try scorers to select from as well as Wire’s leading touchdown flyer Matty Ashton.

Warrington Guardian: Matty Ashton playing for England against France in the 2023 mid-season international against FranceMatty Ashton playing for England against France in the 2023 mid-season international against France (Image: SWpix.com)

Newcastle Knights’ Dom Young is surely first-choice on the right flank, given he exploded on to the international scene there with England in last year’s World Cup.

It is expected Wane would have wanted Makinson on the other flank for his experience at this level, but his potential switch to full-back would more than likely mean Catalans Dragons’ Tom Johnstone getting the nod ahead of Ashton due to being Super League’s leading scorer and having featured in the Grand Final at the weekend.

Wane looks short of dedicated centres, so The Wire’s Toby King, who has been on loan at Wigan Warriors this season, looks certain to figure on the right and he is likely to fancy the experience and physicality of his former Wigan player John Bateman on the left.

Moving on to the forwards then, it would seem one of The Wire pair Daryl Clark or Danny Walker will start at hooker, though there is the option for Wane to pick Radley there instead – and Radley’s starting berth will probably be decided by who the England coach wants at loose-forward.

If he goes with Radley at loose, then Clark is the likely hooker based on his experience and having been there or thereabouts throughout his career. Walker may be seen by Wane, at this stage, as the 9 of the future, though has shown in his Super League progress this year that he would be capable of a good job for England if called on.

Warrington Guardian: Daryl Clark training with England in 2021Daryl Clark training with England in 2021 (Image: SWpix.com)

Saints’ Morgan Knowles would appear to be the other contender for the 13 shirt, but can also play prop and do long minutes. Wane may fancy the impact he can bring off the bench though against a big and physical Tongan side.

Wane is likely to go big and strong in the front row to counter-act what Tonga will have, so Tom Burgess will be in there and the big question is who partners him?

Ex-Wire prop and now Huddersfield Giants veteran Chris Hill, former Warrington giant Robbie Mulhern who has had a great year at Leigh Leopards, or second-row convert Mike McMeeken who has impressed for the past couple of seasons in the front row with Catalans Dragons? Or could he spring a surprise again for a smaller but explosive style player in the shape of Saints’ Knowles or Matty Lees?

In the belief that Wane will want explosion off the bench, McMeeken gets the nod alongside Burgess.

Canberra Raiders’ Elliott Whitehead has been a regular top producer for England and so he will be in the back-row, more than likely alongside Wane’s old Wigan warhorse and Grand Final winning skipper Liam Farrell.

Off the bench, Lees, Knowles and Mulhern will bring power and explosion to the middle and Wane will need somebody who can cover the back-row and centre positions, so this could be where The Wire’s Ben Currie fits into Wane’s plans.

Warrington Guardian: Ben Currie carries England forward during the mid-season international against FranceBen Currie carries England forward during the mid-season international against France (Image: SWpix.com)

Predicted England team to face Tonga in the first Test

Makinson; Young, King, Bateman, Johnstone; Welsby, Smith; McMeeken, Clark, Burgess, Whitehead, Farrell, Radley. Subs: Lees, Knowles, Currie, Mulhern.

Missing out: Matty Ashton (Warrington Wolves), Tyler Dupree (Wigan Warriors), Chris Hill (Huddersfield Giants), Mikey Lewis (Hull KR), Harry Newman (Leeds Rhinos), Danny Walker (Warrington Wolves).