We have picked out the five main talking points from the international weekend.
England depth can only stretch so far
England were thrashed 34-0 in the third and final Test by New Zealand at Elland Road on Sunday, but the Lions had already wrapped up the series win and lifted the Baskerville Shield following the game in Leeds.
Wayne Bennett’s side had beaten the Kiwis in the first two games in Hull and Liverpool, so they emerged victorious. England were down on numbers before the autumn series even begun, but they had depth on their side but by the time they reached the final Test – that depth could only stretch so far and it was stretched to the limit.
Joe Greenwood was made to make his international debut in the front-row, when he is an out-and-out back-rower and with leaders Sean O’Loughlin, Sam Tomkins and Sam Burgess absent – England always faced an uphill battle and the Kiwis served them a rough Sunday dinner. England deserve great credit for their first two performances though, Bennett has got the boys clicking together.
Nikorima is the new Johnson
Kodi Nikorima is a special, special player.
The 24-year-old, who made his NRL debut for Brisbane Broncos back in 2015, has an extremely bright future. He put in a very classy display to inspire the Kiwis to their big win over the Lions on Sunday and didn’t put a foot wrong.
Heading into the autumn Test series, a lot of eyes in both the northern and southern hemispheres were on Nikorima’s half-back partner, Shaun Johnson, but it was Nikorima that stole the headlines in this series with his line running, sharp footwork and confident creativity.
You feel as though Nikorima is the next big name – like Johnson is – for the Kiwis.
Rugby league respects Remembrance Day in fine fashion
Rugby league gets some things wrong when it comes to marketing and promotional work – but they are one of the best sports on the planet when it comes to paying respects to the fallen heroes.
The England-New Zealand took play on the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, and the respect shown by the Lions and Kiwis was spine-tingling.
Bennett took his side to visit memorial sites in France and Belgium this autumn and England wore a commemorative shirt on Sunday, which paid tribute to the Royal British Legion. New Zealand also wore a poppy on their All Black jerseys. The RFL and NZRL deserve great credit for the way they have paid tribute to the fallen this autumn.
International rugby league looking brighter than ever
It seems as though the Rugby League International Federation’s congress in York last was a very successful one.
It has been confirmed that the Great Britain Lions team will return and they will tour the southern hemisphere next autumn to face New Zealand, Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and Papua New Guinea. The European Championship between France, Ireland, Scotland and Wales will also stay.
The 2019 plan approved by the RLIF will see the creation of an Oceania Cup and the RLIF board have also approved financial support for the Americas Championship and a new competition for nations in the Middle East and Africa.
Australia will host the inaugural RLIF Nines World Cup in 2019, and this will feature both men’s and women’s competitions.
All of the aforementioned plans point to an exciting future for international rugby league. Let’s hope every player and fan gets behind it.
Wales have a promising future
Wales might not have retained their European Championship title this year – but they have a promising future, there is no doubt about that.
They have impressed this autumn and coach John Kear has got them running like clockwork. A big positive about Wales is the fact that they have a good blend of homegrown and heritage players within their squad.
West Wales Raiders and North Wales Crusaders are doing some community projects in Wales at the moment to get the younger generation playing rugby league, so hopefully that will pay off in the long run.
Half-back Josh Ralph and forward Dan Fleming have been outstanding for the Dragons in the tournament, while Cardiff-born Elliott Kear embraced his role as captain. Wales are moving in the right direction.