Hosted in England, the Rugby League World Cup is set to begin on Sunday, October 16, with 16 countries eyeing glory.
Group B consists of Australia, Fiji, Italy, and Scotland.
Captain and Dally M Fullback of the Year, James Tedesco will start at fullback. The Sydney Roosters player plays his role to perfection in attack, playing off the two play-makers. With three different halves in the squad, Tedesco will need to bring consistency to each pairing.
After being snubbed of a State of Origin spot, Josh Addo-Carr will return to representative footy for the Kangaroos. However, he will need to watch out for the high ball having difficulties when going up against taller wingers.
With Addo-Carr on the left side of the field, Murray Taulagi is the obvious pick to go on the other side. After a breakout year with the Cowboys, Taulagi uses his power and strength to get through the opposition defenders.
Also coming back to representative footy is Souths fullback, Latrell Mitchell. Going into a contract year next season, the Greg Inglis clone has turned into a monster in attack and defence. Joining him will be Valentine Holmes. Throughout the year, he has continually shown how impressive he is in the centres.
With three good play-makers in the halves, only two of them can wear the green and gold jersey. Out of the three Cameron Munster and Nathan Cleary will lace up their boots, while Daly Cherry-Evans will have to sit on the sideline. Will it be the premiership winner or the Dally M Five-Eight who will have a larger impact?
Ben Hunt and Harry Grant will take turns at dummy half just like when they were playing with Queensland. Although they are still capable of playing together on the field if need be. Hunt will start with Grant coming on in the middle of the game.
Tino Fa’asuamaleaui and Jake Trbojevic will fill out the front row with Dally M Lock of the Year Isaah Yeo playing at number 13. All three players are considered within the best three of their position in the NRL. Trbjojevic and Yeo’s passing ability adds another layer to the Kangaroos’ attack.
Newly appointed vice-captain Cameron Murray will join Roosters player Angus Crichton in the back row. Being a workhouse is in their blood, with both of them putting their body on the line in defence. They will never give up or get tired.
Rookie standout Jeremiah Nanai will get his first opportunity to play in the Australia jersey as he joins fellow Maroon teammate Patrick Carrigan on the bench. Panthers starting second-rower Liam Martin will fill out the last spot on the bench.
Predominately all three players are considered back-rowers but their versatility allows them to play in any forward position.
After just missing out on a spot in the Grand Final with the Panthers, Sunia Turuva will turn out for Fiji at fullback. The young star scored two tries earlier this year against Papua New Guinea in his maiden appearance for Fiji.
Joining him on the wing is the pairing of Vuate Karawalevu and Maika Sivo. Playing for the Kaiviti Sillktails and North Sydney Bears, Karawalevu has been a try machine. Still looking for his first-grade debut, his speed is unmatched by most players. Sivo is hoping to rebound from a poor performance in the Grand Final with the Eels.
The remaining positions in the back line will be taken by Pio Seci and Sami Valemei. Both players are dangerous in attack and use their size and strength to their advantage.
Running the plays for Fiji in the halves will be captain Kevin Naiqama and Nautu’a Masima. Naiqama can play anywhere on the field and may have a difficult time settling into the five-eighth role. Unknown halfback Masima will shock the tournament with his attacking ability. He can easily create something out of nothing.
Joe Ratuvakacereivalu and Tui Kamikamica will make up the front row. Both players have impressed during the year. Kamikamica will have the reigns of leading the forward pack having played since 2017 and appearing 13 times for Fiji.
Kaylen Miller will get his first shot starting in the team at lock. He has learned a lot from Viliame Kikau and Lamar Manuel-Liolevave in the second-row position. Kikau is the most important forward in the line-up offering balance on both ends of the field.
Lining up in the hooker position is Fiji’s secret weapon Apisai Koroisau. After not being chosen to be a part of the Kangaroos’ squad, Korisau will play with Fiji. The gun player will be relied on the most to start the attack.
Backing him up on the bench is Penioni Tagituimua. Beginning his career with the Silktails he showed his ability earlier this year against Papua New Guinea. Without Koroisau he took the reigns from dummy half and didn’t miss a beat.
Also on the bench is Salford Red Devils forward King Vuniyayawa, who plays just like his namesake. Joining him is Ben Nakubuwai who is not shy from representative footy, previously playing ten tests for the national side.
Halfback Brandon Wakeham will earn the last spot on the bench. Unable to find consistent form he will need to have a great tournament if he is to wear the number 7 under Cameron Ciraldo at the Dogs.
After a difficult choice between Luke Polselli and Kyle Pickering for the fullback role, Polselli is a step ahead showcasing his talents in the Queensland Cup. In 18 appearances this season he was able to put away nine tries and have 13 try assists.
With Polselli taking the fullback role, Pickering will move over to the wing. He will be joined by Richard Lepori on the other side of the field. The two wingers have been used as fullbacks during the season but will have to adjust to playing on the outside of the field.
Inside them will be Jake Maizen and Ethan Natoli. Natoli adds experience while Maizen has been credited as a great player in the reserve grade. He can find the try line with ease and carries the ball like a first-grade superstar.
Melbourne Storm product Cooper Johns will be handed the number 6 role. Being one of the only two NRL players in the squad, Johns is looking to make a name for himself with no expectations on him. Daniel Atkinson will join him in the halves and has played for the Sunshine Coast Falcons this year.
Growing up in the Eastern Suburbs, Luca Moretti has become a good forward in both rugby league and union. Now playing for the Paramatta Eels in the reserve league, he is aiming for a spot in the first-grade team. A strong performance for Italy could cement a debut for him at NRL level in the near future.
Brendan Santi will join him in the front row. The captain of the team will look to lead them in a tough group. Ryan King and Luke Hodge from the New South Wales reserves will take their position in the back row. Both players are eyeing a chance to get further in their careers on good performances.
The remaining forward position will be lock Nathan Brown. Brown comes into the team having been chosen to play in the Grand Final after falling out of favour with Brad Arthur. Easily the most experienced player, he will lead the team in defence.
Joey Tramontana and Dean Parata will take turns in the dummy-half position with Tramontana taking the number 9 shirt. They have created a good bond with each other which will be essential to Italy’s success going forward.
The remaining three bench players will be Anton Iaria, Alec Susino and Ronny Palumbo. Each player brings a versatile skill set to the table and can easily make an impact. Whether they are on for ten minutes or forty, they will bring everything they can to the game.
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London Broncos star Alex Walker will play at fullback after finally cementing his spot as a starter. After debuting for Scotland in 2015 he mainly came off the bench playing a utility role. His inclusion will move Matty Russell to the wing. Russell’s ability to play anywhere in the backs has made him one of the useful players in the Scottish line-up.
On the other wing, Barrow Raider’s Shane Toal will tie on his boots. Scoring eight tries this season, his speed and agility have helped transform him into a special player.
Kane Linnett and Ben Hellewell will fill out the backs in the centre position. After leaving the NRL, Linnett has continually played well for Hull KR in England. His experience will help complement the other backs in the team. Hellewell is under-rated and will swap with Euan Aitken between centre and second row. His versatility will help gain him a starting spot in the centres.
Salford Red Devils goal-kicker Ryan Brierley and Jersey Flegg Player of the Year Bailey Hayward will play in numbers 6 and 7. Either player can switch between the two positions in the halves. Still developing Hayward is looking to impress Cameron Ciraldo as the Bulldogs look for a new halfback.
Switching with Hellewell, Euan Aitken will start in the second row alongside St Helens forward James Bell. Unfortunately, Bell had a disappointing season with them that saw him get loaned out to Leigh Centurions. Both players will be looking for redemption in the World Cup. Aitken will leave for the Redcliffe Dolphins while Bell needs to cement a spot in the St Helens line-up.
Captain Dale Ferguson will start at lock with Sam Luckley and Logan Bayliss-Brow filling in the front-row spots. Coming out of the Broncos academy system, Bayliss-Brow will be a player to keep an eye on. His strength in the forwards has made him a useful asset to the Bravehearts squad.
Scotland has brought an immense amount of hookers to the World Cup. Running the forwards will be Liam Hood at hooker. Having played for Scotland since 2012, the Wakefield Trinity starter is their first choice.
The bench will consist of Charlie Emsile providing versatility in the back-row, a backup hooker in Kyle Schneider, and powerful forwards Luke Bain and Jack Teanby.
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