Hosted in England, the Rugby League World Cup is set to begin on Sunday, October 16, with 16 countries eyeing glory.
Group A consists of England, France, Greece, and Samoa.
Captain Sam Tomkins will fill the fullback role for England, something that he has done since 2009. The 2021 Man of Steel has re-found his form after a few disappointing seasons with the Warriors. Bringing skill, he can always be seen looming around the ball looking to get his hands on it.
The outside backs chosen will be a no-brainer. They will be Ryan Hall and Tommy Makinson. Now 30-years of age, Makinson has played over 275 games in the Super League. During this time he has scored 169 tries. Hall is not unknown to fans regularly scoring in tough games and in tough spots.
Inside will be former Gold Coast Titan Kallum Watkins and current Broncos star Herbie Farnworth. England produces one of the best back-lines, with each player a star in their own right. Not only do they start for England, but would be a starter for most World Cup teams.
After choosing a few halves players into the squad, the first-choice halves pairing will be Jack Welsby and George Williams. Williams has continued his form after leaving the Canberra Raiders, while Welsby has played a major role in each one of St Helens’ three consecutive premierships.
Michael McIlorum will complete the spine in the hooker position. He has over 300 games in the Super League under his belt, but has only appeared for England five times. McIlorum will be relied heavily on for his experience and leadership.
The four starting forwards will be Joe Batchelor and Luke Thompson in the front-row and Elliot Whitehead and John Bateman in the back-row outside of them. Thompson was instrumental in the Bulldogs’ success off the bottom of the ladder, and is considered the most dominant forward in the squad.
The two second-rowers have a mountain of experience, with both players formerly playing together with the Canberra Raiders. With Bateman now back playing at the Super League with the Wigan Warriors, their reunion will cause havoc for the defenders.
At lock will be none other than Victor the Inflictor. Victor Radley has been a big reason for the Sydney Roosters’ success and is a tank running the ball and one of the scariest defenders in the tournament. He is out to cause damage to the opposition ball runners.
Dual international and St Helens’ star Morgan Knowles and Souths’ premiership winner Thomas Burgess will be the first two players coming off the bench for England. Both players can easily start on the field, but when they come from the bench they are destined to make a bigger impact, especially when the opposing team gets tired. They will be joined by other forwards Mike Cooper and Kai Pearce-Paul.
Salford Red Devils fullback Morgan Escare will take the starting position at the back of the field. Playing for France since 2013, he has been a mainstay of the team. Now playing nearly 200 games, he has transformed into a player to be rembered.
With him at the back, Fouad Yaha and Paul Marcon will take the starting wingers spot. Both have previously played in the French outfit and come from a rugby union background. Their speed and agility is a big reason to their success as wingers.
Inside will be Matthieu Laguerre and Arthur Romano. The young Romano has only played just over 50 games, but has cemented his spot at the Catalans Dragons. His Super League teammate Laguerre has created a lethal combination between the two players.
After being shifted from his favourable fullback position, Arthur Mougue will stay in the team at five-eight. Learning under England captain Sam Tomkins, he has become a great utility back. He will be joined by Tony Gigot, who is not only experienced, but showcases his best at major tournaments.
Captain Ben Garcia will run the forwards at lock, with Jordan Dezaria and Benjamin Jullien joining in the back-row. Jullien is one of the most experienced players in the squad, providing support in attack and efficient tackles. Garcia will take the reigns of captain after Theo Fages was ruled out of the World Cup with injury.
Hooker Eloi Pelissier and props Paul Seguier and Justin Sangare will complete the French forward pack. Seguier can shift between all three forward positions, having done so across his 75 games in the Super League. Joining Leeds Rhinos next season, Sangare is hoping to off with a bang in the World Cup and impress the Leeds coaching staff.
Anthony Marion will take a spot on the bench due to his versatility, becoming a utility that is able to play in the halves, at hooker and even at lock forward. He will be joined on the bench by experienced forward Mickael Goudemand, edge runner Corentin Le Cam and forward utility Maxime Puech.
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Straight out of the Jersey Flegg with the Rabbitohs, Chaise Robinson will wear the number one jersey. Continually going through the developmental ranks, Robinson is poised to one day wear the same jersey for Souths in the NRL.
The wing will be made up of John Mitsias and Terry Constantinou. Mitsias, who plays for the Western Suburbs Magpies in the NSW Cup, has shown flair and has a great aerial ability under the high ball. Constantinou can play anywhere on the field in the backs and forwards. His versatility will help the team with their depth issues on the wing.
Assisting them in the centres will be Nick Mougios and Mitch Zampetides. Mougios is a young player coming through the ranks at Souths, while Zampetides has years of experience. Playing in the pre-season for Souths, Mougios was unlucky to go out with a concussion in his only televised game. Now with the world watching, he can show all the fans on what they missed out on seeing.
The Greece attack will rely heavily on their halves pairing of Jordan Meads and Lachlan Ilias. Meads, who is currently playing rugby union, will need to transition back to league. Ilias meanwhile is looking to continue his great year with the Rabbitohs. This includes a strong performance in the finals series, showing that he is no longer a weak link in defence.
Finishing the spine is Peter Mamouzelos. One of the only players with NRL experience, he has become a regular feature at Rabbitohs games and training. He has learnt a lot under the guidance of Blues’ hooker Damien Cook, which has developed him into a better player.
Robert Tuliatu and Billy Tsikrikas will assist Mamouzelos in the middle of the field. Tsikrikas made his debut for the Bulldogs this season at age 27. However, he has played for Greece since 2014, and was a big reason for helpign the nation qualify for the World Cup.
Former NRL and Super League player Billy Magoulias will join the back-row alongside Adam Vrahnos, who has developed into a powerful edge forward. Neither player lacks experience or skill, and will need to put in for the full 80 minutes if Greece are able to contend with the other nations.
Nico Flocas will take the last spot in the starting team at the lock position. Coming from the Queensland Cup, he has shown that he potential to become something special.
The bench will consist of Liam Sui Tin, Jake Kmbos, Stefano Bastas and Sebastian Sell. Out of the bench players, Sell will be the one to watch. In his last six appearances for the Greek side, he has managed to cross the line four times.
Joseph Suaalii will finally get his chance to prove to critics that he can play as a fullback in the higher levels. Alongside James Tedesco and Joey Manu at the Roosters, each player will be hoping to not only bring home bragging rights, but show the coaching staff who deserves to play in the fullback position.
The rest of the Samoan backs will be made up of the ‘Penrith Four’. There will be friendly competition between all of them to see who can score and assist more tries. Will it be the left side of Brian To’o and Izack Tago, or the right side of Stephen Crichton and Taylan May?
Play-makers Jarome Luai and Anthony Milford both bring a wealth of experience. Their selection in the halves gives them an opportunity to cement their spots for next year. For Luai, it will be trying to keep his spot in the NSW Blues, while Anthony Milford will be looking to impress as he joins the inaugural Redcliffe Dolphins NRL squad.
The front-row is made up of two strong powerhouses in Josh Papalii and Junior Paulo. Having played against each other in State of Origin, they will join forces to both bust through and put on big tackles. Moving onto the outer edge of the ruck, it will be premiership winner Spencer Leniu and Maroons player Jaydn Su’a.
Rounding up the starting 13 is veteran Martin Taupau at lock, who hasn’t changed since the last World Cup, and Warriors hooker Chanel Harris-Tavita. The utility can be used in a variety of positions, mainly seen in the halves. However his inclusion at hooker will give Samoa another play-maker to use.
Huddersfield Giants hooker Danny Levi will start on the bench, interchanging with Harris-Tavita for the hooker role. Joining the Canberra Raiders next year, he will be eager to showcase his talents in defence and passing ability.
Josh Aloiai, Oregon Kaufusi and Kelma Tuilagi are three great players to come off the bench. Each one of them can make an impact in an instant and will help continue the tempo once the starting forwards step off the field.
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