Wayne Bennett is out and Shaun Wane is in. That is the change at the top for the England national team.
Wane will take over the reins from the departing Bennett on a two-year contract.
The former Wigan head coach returns to rugby league from a stint in Scottish rugby.
Wane is honoured to have the chance in the role with some big tournaments coming up.
“I am honoured to be appointed Head Coach of my country’s national team at such an exciting and important time for Rugby League in England,” Wane said.
“We have a three-Test Ashes series against Australia this autumn, and after that we host the World Cup in 2021.
“Everyone who knows me knows that I’ve always loved the game of Rugby League, and been proud of British Rugby League.”
With players on offer in both England and Australia, Wane looks forward to success involving players from both areas.
“I’m looking forward so much to starting work with the outstanding Rugby League players we have in this country,” Wane continued.
Also the guys who have enjoyed success in Australia in recent years, to do all we can to win the World Cup next year.”
The appointment of Wane is one that excites those associated with the English governing body, the Rugby Football League.
“We think this is an exciting appointment that will be welcomed by England Rugby League supporters as we prepare for this year’s Ashes series, and the 2021 Rugby League World Cup,” said RFL CEO, Ralph Rimmer.
“Shaun is passionate about the game and his country, and also an outstanding coach, as shown by his record in eight seasons as Wigan’s head coach, a major feature of which was the success he and the club had in developing so many homegrown players.
“With two years to go in the lead up to RLWC2021, a full review was always programmed in to follow from the 2019 Great Britain tour of New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
In part two of our 2020 Super League preview we examine Salford, St. Helens, Toronto, Wakefield, Warrington and Wigan.
Salford Red Devils
2019 finish: 3rd
Ground: AJ Bell Stadium
Coach: Ian Watson
Captain(s): Lee Mossop and Mark Flanagan
After one of the most surprising seasons in recent history Ian Watson’s men defied the odds to finish 3rd and make their way to their first ever Super League Grand Final.
However, as a new season dawns, the Red Devils see plenty of big departures with the inspirational Jackson Hastings, Josh Jones, George Griffin, Darell Olpherts and Robert Lui all making an exit.
This year may just be a transitional year for Watson’s men, meaning both Joey Lussick and Niall Evalds will be pivotal as the season goes on.
They have been able to fill some voids though, adding Kevin Brown, James Greenwood, Dan Sarginson and Sebastine Ikahihifo in the hope of following on from a sensational 2019.
Player to watch
Even though it did not work out for him at Leeds, Tuimoala Lolohea has seemingly found a new lease of life with Salford.
If his performances for Tonga towards the end of the year are anything to go by, then it will be interesting to see where this side goes from here with the halfback in tow.
2019 season finish: 1st (Champions)
Ground: Totally Wicked Stadium
Coach: Kristian Woolf
Captain: James Roby
Unlike other teams around them, the 2019 Super League Champions have decided against adding any extra talent to the side that dominated most of last year.
Well, they do say why mess with a winning formula and again the Saints still look an unfathomable unit with James Roby leading the way once again.
It is possible to think though that the Red Vee will not always have it their own way this year especially with how other teams have added over the off season.
Though when you have Lachlan Coote, Regan Grace, Kevin Naiqama, Tommy Makinson and Jonny Lomax in the backline and a front row consisting of Luke Thompson and Alex Walmsley, then you will still be brave to bet against them.
Player to watch
In a team that has its fair share of impact players, Jonny Lomax has been one of the most consistent performers over the last couple of years.
His versatility and ability to unlock an opponent’s defence saw him claim 16 tries and 21 try assists last year. Man of Steel 2020 anyone?
2019 season finish: N/A (recently promoted from Championship)
Ground: Lampert Stadium
Coach: Brian McDermott
Captain: Josh McCrone
The first ever transatlantic rugby league team make their highly anticipated debut in Super League this year.
In the process, they bring with them one of the biggest acquisitions in the sport’s history, if not the biggest in Sonny Bill Williams.
The 34-year-old will make his return to rugby league for the first time since 2014 and will provide a huge boost in the back row.
Alongside SBW, Toronto have the coaching of McDermott and Super League experience of Joe Mellor, Gareth O’Brian, Matty Russell and Jon Wilkin.
Together, that should seemingly be enough to steer them to safety with a play-off spot maybe too much too soon for the North American side.
Player to watch
Even though all eyes will be on SBW, the key man for McDermott’s side may just be the talented Andy Ackers at dummy half.
The 26-year-old has spent time with Swinton and London before joining Toronto in 2018 and has developed a reputation as one of the best hookers in the country outside of Super League.
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats
2019 season finish: 9th
Ground: Belle Vue (Mobile Rocket Stadium)
Coach: Chris Chester
Captain: Jacob Miller
The West Yorkshire side should be quietly confident they can challenge some of the leading contenders ahead of them this season.
They face a fight in the middle table with the likes of Leeds, Castleford and Catalan looks to be much likelier.
The Wildcats have brought in Joe Westerman, Chris Green and Jay Pitts to bolster the forwards.
They still have influential players in Bill Tupou, Reece Lyne and Danny Brough to create opportunities going forward.
Also, the additions of the young and exceptionally talented Alex Walker and veteran Ryan Atkins certainly bolster the backline.
Player to watch
There is no question that Tom Johnstone is the one to watch for Wakefield this year.
Over the last two years he has had his career curtailed after a pair of serious injuries saw him miss a substantial amount of time.
However, if he stays healthy, he remains one of the most exciting talents out there with his electric speed and finishing ability.
2019 season finish: 4th
Ground: Halliwell Jones Stadium
Coach: Steve Price
Captain(s): Chris Hill and Jack Hughes
In the duo of Blake Austin and Gareth Widdop. the Wire have two of the most lethal halves in the league to get them in to the top two this year.
The departure of Ryan Atkins and Bryson Goodwin have left a gap in the centres.
The trio of Toby King, Jake Mamo and Keenan Brand alongside new signing Anthony Gelling show there are plenty of options for Steve Price there.
Even out wide, they have two exceptional try scorers in Josh Charnley and Tom Lineham.
There are huge presences in the forward pack with Chris Hill, Jack Hughes, Joe Philbin, Ben Currie, Ben Murdoch-Masila and Sitaleki Akauola.
Not to mention catalyst Daryl Clark flying around at dummy half.
All the ingredients are there, it is up to the Wolves now as to whether they can finally put the pieces together and finally achieve the big one.
Player to watch
We already know what the likes of Austin, Widdop and Charnley so for Warrington, I decided to look at more youthful prospect and that is Matty Ashton.
The 21-year-old arrived from Swinton Lions recently and comes into Super League as the second tier’s top try scorer and Young Player of the Year in 2019.
2019 season finish: 2nd
Ground: DW Stadium
Coach: Adrian Lam
Captain: Sean O’Loughlin
Alongside Hull FC, Wigan have probably made some of the best signings over the course of the post season.
2019 Man of Steel winner Jackson Hastings has joining the fray to go with the inclusions of George Burgess, Mitch Clark and Jake Bibby.
The Warriors have a team filled with a great blend of youth and experience and that was certainly evident last year.
Youngsters Morgan Smithies and Oliver Partington gained valuable first team minutes and showed why they are potential stars in the making.
If you combine all this with the leadership of Sean O’Loughlin, Liam Farrell and Thomas Leuluai and the skill and talent of Zak Hardaker, Oliver Gildart, Bevan French and Joe Burgess, then Wigan have it all to go better than 2nd this year.
Player to watch
Although you can point to either Smithies or Partington or the fact that Gildart is set to miss the start of the season due to injury, the stage is set for Bevan French.
He has a chance to announce himself in his first full year with the Warriors.
The 24-year-old certainly has all the skills and creativity to be one Adrian Lam’s best attacking weapons this coming season.
After more opportunity, Leilani Latu is expected to get that at the Warrington Wolves after being granted a release by the Gold Coast Titans.
Joining the club from the Penrith Panthers, Latu struggled for regular game time at the Titans, prompting the move to Wolves.
With Latu wanting a fresh start, the Titans were not about to stand in his way.
“Leilani and his family have been passionate members of the Gold Coast community, and as a Club, we are supportive of him taking this new opportunity for his career and family,” Titans Head of Performance and Culture Mal Meninga said.
“The Titans thank Leilani for his time at the Club, and wish his nothing but the best for the future.”
Latu’s arrival at Warrington will see him rejoin some familiar faces.
The prop played with both Ben Murdoch-Masila and Sitaleki Akauola at Penrith.
“I’m looking forward to getting into training with the boys and creating some combinations with them,” Latu said.
“It’s an exciting brand of footy here and I couldn’t turn down the opportunity.
I chose Warrington because of the quality of players and I have played with a couple of them back in the NRL too; Ben Murdoch-Masila and Sitaleki Akauola at Penrith and we had some success there.”
Warrington coach Steve Price says Latu fits the bill in terms of what the club was looking for in the forwards.
“We are always looking for quality rugby players to bring to our club and we feel Leilani fits that,” said Price.
“I’m looking forward to working with him and developing his game during his time at Warrington as we feel there is a lot more he can bring to the game.”
With the George Williams signing confirmed, the halves future looked bleak for Aidan Sezer, prompting the half to jump ship to the Huddersfield Giants.
The English-based Super League club have signed the experienced half on a two-year deal.
Sezer is no stranger to Simon Woolford, having worked briefly alongside him at the Raiders.
“It’s been a drawn out process for most of the year, but to have it all done is a great relief,” Sezer said.
“Joining up with Simon and the boys will be a relief – obviously it was a disappointing campaign last year for the Giants but the ambition of the club and the group is exciting.
“I’m really looking forward to get over there and have a successful campaign in 2020.”
The opportunity was too good for Sezer to refuse in the end, as he looks forward to what lies ahead with the Giants.
“I’ve followed the Super League pretty closely and I’ve always said I want to be a part of it and hopefully go over there and I’m delighted it’s come,” continued Sezer.
“I’ve got a good opportunity to play with the Giants and to play for a great club and hopefully have a successful campaign.”
With the addition of other solid players, Sezer believes the Giants have the makings of a good side moving forward.
“Hopefully my big game experience will carry through, I’m a more mature player now,” continued the veteran.
“We’ve already got big game experience with Jordan Turner who is Grand Final winner, we’ve added some great experience with Kenny Edwards – a high quality player back-rower and of course James Gavet, who’s been a really solid front-rower in the NRL.
“I think as a collective we’ve got things to be optimistic about in the coming year.”
Woolford praised the signing of Sezer and talked up the half for his experience, poise and kicking game.
“I am delighted to finally get the news of Aidan Sezer’s signing out as it’s been a long process,” Woolford said.
“Everyone knows he was my preferred pick in the crucial half back area but to get a current NRL Grand Finalist over here in the prime of his career really is a massive boost for the Giants and the game as a whole.
“With over 150 career games in the NRL and experience of finals football, his pedigree speaks for itself and he will be a real asset for the team.”
His all-round skills as a half, both as a kicker and a runner, are what especially excite Woolford.
“He is an experienced organiser, a superb kicker of the ball both out of the hand and off the tee, and with his 83% kicking success rate, he’ll obviously become our primary kicker,” Woolford continued.
“His running game I think will complement the people around him and above all he is from a winning environment at Canberra and having enjoyed such a stellar season last year can bring a lot of that toughness and win at all costs mentality that successful teams need.
Over the course of the off season, there has been plenty of player movement throughout Super League.
Now, as pre-season gets underway towards the end of the calendar year, I take a look at 10 signings that make all the difference for their retrospective new clubs.
Sonny Bill Williams (Toronto Wolfpack)
Let’s start off with maybe the most obvious choice and one of the biggest acquisitions in the sports history.
It is amazing to think with the career that SBW has had that this will be his first ever season in Super League.
Remarkably, we will finally see Williams in UK’s premier division with expansionist side Toronto Wolfpack.
Even at 34, the cross-code star remains the full package and one incredible athlete who if can remain healthy may just prove to be a devastating addition to Canadian side.
Luke Gale (Leeds Rhinos)
Since the departures of Kevin Sinfield and Danny McGuire, the Rhinos have been crying out for a play caller and someone to just inject some energy and creativity in the middle of the field.
In recent times, the Rhinos have looked to the likes of Richie Myler and Tui Lolohea to fill the void but have fallen short on consistency.
But the return of the 2017 Man of Steel into the Leeds fold may just rectify that with his ability to unlock the defence and his firm accuracy with the boot.
James Maloney (Catalans Dragons)
Alongside Sonny Bill, this is another huge coup for Super League as Maloney makes his bow across the pond with the Catalans Dragons.
A NRL title and State of Origin winner who will bring a wealth of experience and championship winning mentality to a side that looks to keep making big strides in the game.
The 2018 Challenge Cup winners may even become more of a handful as the season goes along with Maloney possibly teaming up with Josh Drinkwater in the halves.
Adam Swift (Hull FC)
For the last couple of seasons, Hull FC have seemingly lacked that little extra something out on the edge and now even more especially after the retirement of Fetuli Talanoa.
However, the return of Mahe Fonua along with bringing in Adam Swift from St. Helens may just give the Hull faithful a whiff of optimism.
The 26-year-old Swift brings a decent try scoring record to Humberside after scoring 86 tries in 130 appearances.
Alongside the likes of Jake Connor, Albert Kelly and Marc Sneyd, he can easily add to his try tally.
Alex Walker (Wakefield Trinity)
One of the country’s most promising youngsters who burst onto to rugby league scene with London Broncos who always looked set to make his presence felt in Super League at some point.
The 24-year-old was a big factor in London’s promotion to Super League.
He now makes the move over to West Yorkshire and that of the Wakefield Trinity.
His positional awareness at the fullback spot will make him a welcome addition to Chris Chester’s side.
Josh Jones (Hull FC)
After one of his best seasons to date, Jones more than deserved his Great Britain call up.
After spending a good proportion of his career with Salford, the second rower now makes the move over to Hull FC.
The Airlie Birds have seen the exits of veteran backrowers Sika Manu and Mark Minichello this post season.
The inclusion of Jones with his offloading and powerful running can partially fill the void left my two consistent performers.
Gareth Widdop (Warrington Wolves)
After spending the entirety of his professional career in the NRL, the Halifax born Widdop will be another premier talent that is set to make his debut in Super League in 2020.
The 29-year-old joins Warrington for the new season and will look to bring all the game management and offensive creativity that made him a success in the NRL.
Over the last couple of seasons, it has been a case of so near yet so far for Warrington.
Could Widdop be the final piece of that puzzle alongside Blake Austin in a dream halfback combination?
Jackson Hastings (Wigan Warriors)
The 2019 Man of Steel winner was the beacon of consistency and creativity that Salford had needed for some time and in turn steered them to their first ever Super League Final.
The 23-year-old was the Red Devils key catalyst over the course of last season and led both his side and the league in try assists with 36.
The versatile back now joins Wigan from the 2020 season,
If the GB international is able to find a connection alongside the likes of Oliver Gildart, Zak Hardaker and Bevan French, then the Warriors can easily continue to be the force they have been for so long.
George Burgess (Wigan Warriors)
An ageing Wigan front row consisting of Tony Clubb and Ben Flower had a new lease of life of last season.
Youngsters Oliver Partington and Liam Byrne burst onto the scene in the front row.
Now, with the addition of George Burgess come the new season, Wigan’s forward pack certainly looks as bolstered as ever.
Even despite a poor discipline record in recent times, the 27-year-old’s sheer size, presence, intensity and big game experience in the NRL mean he could definitely be an impact player over the course of 2020.
Greg Minikin (Hull KR)
It is fair to say that Hull KR have not exactly been quiet in terms of recruitment, with plenty of noteworthy names taking their trade over to Humberside.
However, one name that could stand out over the course of the season may just be Greg Minikin.
The centre has played some of his best rugby while at Castleford, showcasing to be a prolific try scorer in the Tigers run to the Grand Final in 2017.
Throughout the many years of rugby league, we have seen plenty of players from the United Kingdom take their qualities across the world to the Southern hemisphere.
For some, it does not always work out but for others it proves to be a masterstroke in terms of their development as a player.
Most recently, we saw Bateman take the league by storm in his debut NRL season so in response to this, I take a look at the 10 Super League players in today’s game who could make the jump down under.
Luke Thompson (St. Helens)
Is there a better prop forward in Super League at the moment?
The 24-year-old has been a mainstay in the St. Helens front row over the last two seasons and is a player who possesses all he aggressiveness, tenacity and intensity that could see him thrive down under.
Since making his debut in 2013, the barnstorming prop has only gotten better and this year put forth his best season to date this year.
He will prove to be a key figurehead in a Saints side that claimed Super League glory and reached the Challenge Cup final.
Jake Connor (Hull FC)
The Hull FC star’s slick ball handling and carrying skills have seen him thrive at the centre position for the Airlie Birds.
Over the course of history, outside backs who have made the journey over have struggled to cope with the physicality that comes with playing in the NRL.
However, Connor’s undeniable talent could see become someone who can break the mould if given the opportunity.
Tommy Makinson (St. Helens)
There probably has not been a better finisher in Super League over the last few seasons and the spectacular just seems to be a common occurrence for the 2018 Golden Boot winner.
His ability to score through the tightest of windows is second to none.
The 28-year-old finally got a taste of the international stage last year after his debut for England.
He showed the NRL exactly what he can do with a pair of superb performances against New Zealand.
The 2019 season also proved to be another great year as he finished as Super League’s leading try scorer.
Tom Johnstone (Wakefield)
It is fair to say that lady luck has not exactly been on the side of the Wakefield flyer who has endured two season ending injuries in the last three seasons.
However, Johnstone’s ceiling still remains high and at the age of 24, he still has plenty of quality years ahead of him if he can recover from this latest injury setback.
A more than natural finisher, Johnstone has gone on to score 67 times in 78 appearances for the West Yorkshire club.
Alex Walmsley (St. Helens)
The 28 year-old’s front row tandem with Thompson has been something to behold these last couple of seasons.
After a miraculous recovery from a broken neck last year, Walmsley has gone on to become a fearsome prop forward and undoubtedly in the top five at his position in the league.
The Saints man has all the traits needed to make his presence felt in a tough and physical league and similar to that of the Burgess’, his size, strength and huge motor all can prove integral in getting his side on the front foot.
Daryl Clark (Warrington)
At the age of 21, Clark looked destined to be the elite talent he is now after winning the 2014 Man of Steel award with the Castleford Tigers.
Since joining Warrington in 2015, he has just continued to shine.
The 26-year-old oozes quality and has showcased a fine amount of durability with nearly 250 appearances under his belt.
With his electric running out of the hooker spot and pinpoint passing, it could see him make a mark wherever he goes.
Oliver Gildart (Wigan)
Even at the age of 23, Gildart already has plenty of experience under his belt, featuring over 100 times for the Warriors.
In that time, he has racked up over 50 tries to his name since making his debut in 2015.
The star centre’s inclusion in last autumn’s England squad and now a revived GB side just goes to show how quickly he has made an impact in his professional career.
A free flowing and attacking player who can rack up the metres in the southern hemisphere and has already shown a winning mentality at such a young tender age with two Super League crowns.
Liam Watts (Castleford)
We have already touched on how physical the NRL can be and a man who continues to show a fine amount of physicality and toughness in Super League has been Watts.
The Tigers prop was undoubtedly one of the Tigers best players this season after being shortlisted for the season’s Man of Steel award.
Despite not having an international cap under his belt, Watts has been a measure of consistency over the last two yeara.
He has rejuvenated himself since moving to Castleford at the start of the year and his tough and gritty style of play give him every chance down under.
Jonny Lomax (St. Helens)
The 29-year-old has all the versatility and creative flair to make an instant impact in Australia’s top tier with an ability to play anywhere in the backs from halfback to fullback.
Since making his debut back in 2009, Lomax has had a hard time with injuries but one thing that never seemed to escape him was the immense talent he possessed.
After suffering a serious knee injury in 2014, he missed a substantial amount of time sitting out most of the 2014 and 2015 seasons.
However, after a full recovery, Lomax made his comeback at the start of the 2016 Super League season and has not seemed to miss a step as over the last three years.
He has cemented himself well and truly as a catalyst for St. Helens and a man who can do it all on the offensive front.
Toby King (Warrington)
Now, to some, this may seem like a real longshot but at the age of 23, King has the potential to be a future impact player for Warrington and possibly one day in the NRL.
The centre made his debut in 2014 and featured sporadically up until the 2019 season where he was a fully fledged starter for the Wire.
In a more central role, King is already showcasing himself to be a great attacking weapon with a great eye for the try line.
He has scored 28 tries and featured on 82 occasions for the primrose and blue.
Most recently, King was selected as part of the England Knights team that faced Jamaica, putting an excellent effort that included a try and a brace of try assists.