This weekend sees the first test between one of Rugby League’s great international rivalries as England and New Zealand go head to head for the first time since their history making match in Denver during the summer.
England will be looking to pick up where they left off following a resounding win last time out.
However, with a number of injuries affecting the England squad and some returning big names for the Kiwis it’s anyone’s guess as to how this could shape out.
We take a look at six players across both teams who could be the ones to make their presence felt….
The potential to be a future England star and with no Ryan Hall due to injury means we might just see this new face enter the England fold, though he has been left out of the squad for the first test. Despite a nasty injury in 2016/2017, Johnstone has come back better an ever, displaying all the traits that’s made him of the one of the league’s most watched youngsters and top finishers. A combination of great size, strength and explosiveness, Johnstone could provide that certain edge to this England squad and prove to be a pivotal figure in this upcoming test series if his name his called.
A player who only seems getting better with each season that comes along. After handing over the primary kicking duties to young halfback sensation, Danny Richardson at the beginning of the 2018 season, Percival looks to have found a new and fresh aspect to his game, becoming a prominent Super League poacher and one of the Saints critical offensive jigsaw pieces alongside the likes of Ben Barba and Jonny Lomax.
The 2018 Dally M rookie of the year looks all set to be a future of the star of the game putting forth a standout debut season for the Brisbane Broncos this year, breaking the record for most points by a player in his rookie season with 239 points and placing him second on the list for the season behind only Latrell Mitchell. The 23-year-old’s dynamic and athletic play can only prove a dangerous prospect when coming up against the England team this weekend.
Another uncapped player alongside fellow teammate Johnstone. The Wakefield back, could certainly be an eye catcher once the series gets under away as the one place England seem to be struggling for depth is the centre position with both Kallum Watkins and Ben Currie on the sidelines due to injury. The 25-year-old has endured his best season to date with the West Yorkshire club, scoring 11 tries in 29 appearances and racking 3491 metres in the process. The second most in the Wakefield setup after Billy Tupou.
The 24-year-old starred for New Zealand during the 2017 World Cup and has since gone on to cement himself in the international set up as a star second rower. After recently signing a new long-term deal with the Canberra Raiders the sky is now seemingly the limit with for the 24-year-old, who presents a lot of firepower and with his presence in the running game and ability to offload the ball being vital aspects to his game.
An incredible work ethic makes him standout amongst other NRL wingers and was a surprising choice as New Zealand captain for their game against Australia recently. However, not one to be shook, the 23-year-old was a steady head throughout the game putting forth a great display in the Kiwis 26-24 win against the Kangaroos. Now, with the England test series looming and his return to the squad after the birth of his daughter, Watene-Zelenziak looks to be primed and ready for the first test on Saturday.