Former World Cup-winning Kangaroos mentor and four-time premiership winner Tim Sheens will return to coaching with the Combined Nations All Stars team to face England in June.
Sheens will take charge of the team of international players in Super League, which is expected to include Greg Inglis, along with fellow Australians James Maloney, Josh Reynolds, Joel Thompson and Bevan French.
New Zealand’s Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Tonga’s Konrad Hurrell and Manu Ma’u, Fiji’s Kevin Naiqama and Korbin Sims, Lachlan Coote (Scotland) and Regan Grace (Wales) are also likely to be considered.
Sheens, who took Canberra to premierships in 1989, 1990 and 1994 and Wests Tigers to their only grand final triumph in 2005, has been coaching in England since departing the Australian job in 2015.
He had been in charge of the Kangaroos for six years and boasted a record of 26 wins from 31 Tests, including the 2013 World Cup final at Old Trafford and two Four Nations deciders.
The key to defending on the edge
"As soon as I heard about the plans for this fixture, I thought it was an interesting coaching prospect," Sheens said.
"The Exiles games that were played a decade or so ago showed the amount of overseas talent in the Super League, and by rebranding as Combined Nations All Stars it’s expanded the players available from other countries who will be involved in the World Cup.
"We’ll have about 10 rounds of the Super League season for players to put themselves forward through their performances.
"And although we know one of the main aims of the fixture is to help Shaun Wane and his England team by providing an intense quality match as part of their World Cup preparations, I’m pretty confident that when we get the group together, we’ll also be determined to beat them."
Sheens, 70, will be assisted by Andrew Henderson, the former Scotland hooker who had a season with the Tigers in 2004 and is now on the coaching staff at Warrington Wolves after previous success as the head coach of London Broncos.
The historic clash will be played at Halliwell Jones Stadium – Inglis’s new home ground in Warrington - on June 25, which coincides with the NRL’s stand-alone representative round.
It is expected that New Zealand will play Tonga and other Pacific nations will be in action on the same weekend, as the PNG Hunters and Fiji Silktails are based in Australia for the 2021 season.
The clash with the Combined Nations All Stars will be part of an historic double-header, in which the England women’s team will play Wales for the first time.
England and Wales will also face off in a wheelchair international on June 26.
Every try from round 1
RFL CEO Ralph Rimmer said the Combined Nations All Stars is a new name to reflect a concept born in rugby league more than a century ago, when a team known as Other Nationalities faced England in April 1904.
The concept was revived as Exiles in four fixtures from 2011-13 but whereas that team was selected from imports from the southern hemisphere, the Combined Nations All Stars will draw on players from all nations other than England.
"In such a significant year for rugby league as we prepare to host three World Cups in England, this is an announcement for the whole game to celebrate," Rimmer said.
"For Shaun Wane, who has had to wait so long for his first match as England coach, the priority for the mid-season international has always been the quality of opposition."