Elliott Whitehead to pass the baton on to rising stars as England stalwart confirms international retirement

Ben Olawumi
Elliott Whitehead

Elliott Whitehead in action for England against Tonga - Alamy

Elliott Whitehead has now officially confirmed his retirement from international rugby league, picking out the two England starlets he thinks will battle it out to replace him in Shaun Wane’s team.

The Bradford-born forward had already made public his intentions to call time on his England career after tomorrow’s final test against Tonga, with the series bragging rights already wrapped up. Those intentions have now been officially cemented.

Whitehead – who also featured four times for Great Britain in 2019 – will pick up his 27th and final England cap at Headingley against Kristian Woolf’s side, with only 11 men ever earning more than that to date.

Elliott Whitehead highlights two young stars to replace him in England team

The 34-year-old veteran made the move over to the NRL with Canberra Raiders ahead of the 2016 season, and has remained there ever since.

In a press call this morning, he officially announced his retirement from international duty, signifying his intention to go around for one more year with Canberra before hanging up his boots altogether.

On those who could potentially fill the void he leaves behind in an England shirt, former Bradford Bulls & Catalans Dragons ace Whitehead picked out a pair of rising talents, including one of his new teammates at club level come 2024.

He told Love Rugby League: “I’ve heard good things about Matty Nicholson, and obviously Morgan Smithies can play back row.

“They’re both young kids, and they’re both going to get the opportunity to push for that spot in the back row. Obviously John Bateman will still be around, and Ben Currie as well, but I just thought it was the right age for me to step aside and give the opportunity to someone else.

“I won’t be around come 2026 and the World Cup, so I thought it was probably best to just call it a day after this test series. It gives the opportunity to somebody else moving forward for England, and allows them to concentrate on trying to nail that spot down for the next World Cup.”

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