We’ve picked out a player from each nation to watch at this year’s World Cup.
England will stage the World Cup this autumn, with the hosts taking on Samoa in the opening game at St James’ Park in Newcastle on Saturday, October 23.
Here are our ones to watch from each nation in the men’s tournament…
England – John Bateman
The 27-year-old is one of the best back-row forwards in the game. Bateman won two Grand Finals and a World Club Challenge with Wigan before enjoying two successful seasons in Australia with Canberra Raiders. He has earned 19 caps for Great Britain and England to date.
Samoa – Jarome Luai
Luai enjoyed a stellar season with Penrith in 2020, helping the Panthers reach the NRL Grand Final. The 23-year-old playmaker has earned five caps for Samoa and represented the nation at the 2017 World Cup prior to making his first grade debut.
France – Theo Fages
Fages made 66 appearances for Salford before moving to St Helens, where he has since won two Grand Finals. The 26-year-old half-back has earned 12 caps for France, and has already played for his country in two World Cups.
Greece – Billy Magoulias
Greece will compete in the Rugby League World Cup for the first time ever in 2021. Magoulias is one to watch, with the loose forward or half-back playing five games for Cronulla Sharks since his first team debut in 2019. He has represented Greece three times.
Australia – Jack Wighton
Australia are a nation full of superstars, and one of them is Wighton. The 27-year-old has scored 59 tries in 178 games for Canberra Raiders and won the Dally M Medal in 2020. He can play half-back or centre and is just a joy to watch. He has earned two caps for Australia so far.
Fiji – Viliame Kikau
Like Bateman, Kikau is one of the best back-rowers in the game right now. The 25-year-old has scored 20 tries in 71 games for Penrith Panthers so far and has earned nine caps for Fiji. He was named in the 2017 World Cup Team of the Tournament.
Scotland – Ryan Brierley
Brierley made his international debut for Scotland in 2016. The 28-year-old playmaker has made more than 200 career appearances for Leigh, Huddersfield, Toronto and Hull KR. He has earned seven caps for Scotland and is an exciting player to watch.
Italy – Brenden Santi
Santi made 11 NRL appearances for Wests Tigers between 2014-15 and linked up with French club Toulouse in 2019. He enjoyed time with Newcastle in 2020 and has joined Keighley ahead of the 2021 campaign. The 27-year-old forward has earned 11 caps for Italy and has represented the nation in two World Cups.
New Zealand – Brandon Smith
The 24-year-old hooker has become a popular figure in the NRL. He has made more than 60 appearances for Melbourne Storm since his first team debut in 2017 and has earned five caps for New Zealand. He will play in his first World Cup if selected for the Kiwis.
Lebanon – Abbas Miski
Miski played six games for Manly Sea Eagles between 2019-20 but has made the move to England with London Broncos ahead of the 2021 season. The winger has scored 10 tries in 10 games for Lebanon and starred for the Cedars at the last World Cup.
Jamaica – Ashton Golding
Like Greece, Jamaica have qualified for their first ever World Cup so a lot of eyes will be on the team to see how they get on. Huddersfield full-back Golding has earned three caps for Jamaica and has made more than 100 career appearances.
Ireland – Tyrone McCarthy
The 31-year-old forward has earned 18 caps for Ireland and brings a wealth of experience to Stuart Littler’s side, having made more than 250 career appearances. McCarthy has represented the Wolfhounds in two World Cups and is a two-time Challenge Cup winner.
Tonga – Jason Taumalolo
Taumalolo is a household name in rugby league. The 27-year-old has represented Tonga 13 times and has played for the nation in two World Cups. The North Queensland Cowboys star is a Dally M Medal winner and was named in the 2017 World Cup Team of the Tournament.
Papua New Guinea – Rhyse Martin
Martin is well-known in both hemispheres. The goal-kicking forward made 25 NRL appearances for Canterbury Bulldogs in the NRL before becoming a fan’s favourite at English outfit Leeds. The 27-year-old has earned 11 caps for Papua New Guinea so far.
Wales – Regan Grace
The 24-year-old has been one of the standout wingers in Super League for a couple of years now, scoring 63 tries in 110 games for St Helens to date. Grace has pace to burn and has earned six caps for his country to date.
Cook Islands – Brad Takairangi
Takairangi has earned seven caps for the Cook Islands and represented the nation at the Nines World Cup in 2019. The 31-year-old can play centre, back-row or half-back and has made almost 200 career appearances. He will link up with Hull KR in Super League in 2021.
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