The best (eligible) rugby league player for every Euro 2024 nation including NRL superstars

Ben Olawumi
Jack Welsby, Nathan Cleary, James Tedesco

From left to right: Jack Welsby, Nathan Cleary & James Tedesco all star in this EURO 2024-based feature

Since Euro 2024 kicks off on Friday, we thought we’d have a bit of fun at Love Rugby League towers and compile a list of the best (eligible) rugby league player for every nation competing in the tournament!

There are 24 in total, and our picks include some who were born in the nation, some who have represented the nation through their heritage, and some who could represent the nation through their heritage should they wish to do so!

We’ve broken our picks down into the groups the 24 nations will begin Euro 2024 in – with host nation Germany and Scotland kicking things off on Friday night in Munich. Our picks for those two teams, as we’ll get into, see Super League stars past and present.

Without further ado, here’s the full Euro (rugby league) eligible list, in collaboration with He Can Play For..

Group A – Germany, Scotland, Hungary, Switzerland

Germany – Brad Schneider (Penrith Panthers)

Brad Schneider
Brad Schneider in action for Penrith Panthers in 2024

Schneider was born in Adelaide, but has already represented Germany via his heritage, with five caps on his CV. The half-back – of course – spent a few months in Super League at the back end of last season with Hull KR, kicking the drop goal in the Challenge Cup semi-final which fired the Robins to Wembley.

He arrived at Craven Park from Canberra Raiders, and was signed ahead of 2024 by NRL champions Penrith, who he’s featured five times for so far this season at first-grade level, though wasn’t selected for the World Club Challenge against Wigan Warriors.

Scotland – Ryan Brierley (Salford Red Devils)

Preston-born full-back Brierley has already declared his desire to pull on an England shirt, but we’re sticking him in as our Scotland pick having made nine appearances for the Bravehearts, representing them in the delayed 2021 Rugby League World Cup.

The 32-year-old is fast approaching the milestone of 300 club career appearances, with 66 of his 297 so far coming in the colours of boyhood club Salford, who he joined ahead of the 2022 season.

Hungary – Zack Visconti (Sydney Roosters U21s)

Having come through the Roosters’ youth system, forward Visconti is now a regular feature in their Jersey Flegg Cup side at Under-21 level.

The young prop, born Down Under, is eligible to represent Hungary through his heritage.

Switzerland – Rhys Kennedy (London Broncos)

Rhys Kennedy London Broncos Alamy
Rhys Kennedy in action for London Broncos in 2024

Another heritage pick here in Kennedy, who is a New South Wales native but is eligible for the Swiss! The prop debuted in the NRL for South Sydney Rabbitohs in 2019, moving to Brisbane Broncos later that same year.

By the time he joined Hull KR ahead of the 2023 season, he’d featured 49 times among the Australian elite. It had appeared he may well had back Down Under when he was released at the end of the 2023 campaign, but newly-promoted London handed him a Super League lifeline, and he’s now in the capital with the Broncos.

Group B – Spain, Croatia, Italy, Albania

Spain – Romain Franco (Wakefield Trinity)

This is technically a heritage pick given he was officially born in France, but Franco proudly began his international career with Spain in 2019, featuring twice for them in World Cup qualifiers. He’s since gone on to feature against England Knights for France B, but his only senior international caps to date were those two for Spain.

The 26-year-old – who spent a long time in the youth ranks of Catalans Dragons – is now enjoying life in the Championship with Wakefield, scoring five tries in his first five appearance this year. His move to Belle Vue last year was the first time he’d moved permanently away from the Dragons, who he featured seven times for at first-team level in total.

Croatia – Trey Mooney (Canberra Raiders)

Trey Mooney
Trey Mooney in action for Canberra Raiders in 2024

Young forward Mooney debuted in the NRL for Canberra back in 2022, and scored his first senior try in their play-off defeat away against Newcastle Knights last September. The 22-year-old has recently enjoyed a prolonged stint in the Raiders’ side, taking his first-grade appearance tally up to 12 overall with seven of those coming this term.

Sydney-born Mooney, who is eligible to represent Croatia via his heritage, also has vast experience in the New South Wales Cup, scoring 16 tries in 44 appearances in that second-grade competition to date.

Italy – James Tedesco (Sydney Roosters)

Tedesco may well be the Kangaroos’ full-back now, but Australia (obviously) aren’t involved in the Euros and the 31-year-old’s international career began representing Italy via his heritage, so we’re having him as our pick!

A two-time Grand Final winner with the Roosters, and now a World Cup winner with the Kangaroos, New South Wales native Tedesco featured in both the 2013 & 2017 World Cups for Italy. He slotted into the halves on occasion for the Azzurri, scoring three tries in six appearances for them overall.

Albania – Elliot Peposhi (Bradford Bulls)

Forward Peposhi’s father Arbian played for Albania against the GB Student Pioneers in Tirana in 2019, and the youngster himself donned his home nation’s shirt at the back end of 2023, scoring 14 of their 18 points in a 54-18 defeat to The Netherlands via two tries and three goals.

Elliot, who was signed by St Helens aged 16, was released at the end of last season. He didn’t make a competitive senior appearance in the Red V, but impressed hugely at youth level and was quickly snapped up by Championship heavyweights Bradford. He’s featured six times so far for the Bulls.

Group C – Slovenia, Denmark, Serbia, England

Slovenia – Tom Opacic (Hull KR)

Tom Opacic
Tom Opacic in action for Hull KR in 2024

Queensland-born Opacic could have starred elsewhere in this group for Serbia, but also has Slovenian heritage, and it’s here where we’ve opted to slot the centre in. The Redcliffe Dolphins junior broke into the NRL with Brisbane Broncos, and racked up over 80 appearances among the Australian elite between them, the North Queensland Cowboys and Parramatta Eels.

Missing out on the Grand Final through injury, he was part of the Eels squad which reached the NRL’s showpiece in 2022, departing for Super League and Hull KR after the defeat to Penrith. Opacic has so far scored 11 tries in 41 appearances for the Robins, featuring at Wembley last year as they were beaten by Leigh Leopards in the Challenge Cup final.

Denmark – Jayden Campbell (Gold Coast Titans)

Born in Cronulla, 24-year-old Campbell – the son of ex-NRL stalwart Preston – has Danish heritage. We write this just as the youngster has picked up an injury which will rule him out for at least a month, so if we were actually picking for the EUROs, he’d miss out.

But, we’re not! Able to slot into the halves or into full-back, he’s already got 47 NRL appearances to his name, all made for the Gold Coast Titans having debuted back in 2021.

Serbia – Tom Trbojevic (Manly Sea Eagles)

Tom Trbojevic
Tom Trbojevic in action for Manly Sea Eagles in 2024

The Trbojevic brothers, almost as famous as the Belgrano sisters (if you know, you know). 27-year-old Tom is our pick, and we’re sure Serbia would be delighted to see him donning their shirt at some point before he hangs up his boots.

The utility back – who has spent all of his career with Manly – is fast approaching a century of tries in the NRL, and the milestone of 150 first-grade appearances Down Under. He picked up four Australia caps between 2017 & 2018, scoring a brace of tries in the most recent of those against Tonga. Mona Vale-born Trbojevic has also hit double figures in State of Origin appearances for NSW.

England – Jack Welsby (St Helens)

Wigan-born Welsby became England’s youngest-ever captain when he skippered Shaun Wane’s side in last autumn’s test series against Tonga at 22. Now 23, having made his bow on the international front in 2021, the full-back has 10 England appearances on his CV, with one try – scored against Samoa at St James’ Park.

The young gun is a product of the St Helens academy and has won everything there is to win in their colours, too. Saints had to fend off interest from the NRL after last season, and tied him down with a new long-term contract, a deal beneficial to everyone with any desire for Super League to grow.

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Group D – Poland, Netherlands, Austria, France

Poland – Mikołaj Olędzki (Leeds Rhinos)

Gdańsk native Olędzki is the only Polish player in Super League, and just the second from the nation to have played in Super League full stop – after Grzegorz Kacała’s brief stint with Paris Saint-Germain in 1996, switching from rugby union to don the French outfit’s shirt.

Prop Olędzki moved to England when he was nine, and has only ever played for Leeds – at least permanently. Debuting for the Rhinos back in 2017, he’s now just three games away from reaching 150 appearances for the club. The 25-year-old has represented England on the international front, appearing four times at senior level, with one of those in the 2021 World Cup.

Netherlands – Ryan Papenhuyzen (Melbourne Storm)

Ryan Papenhuyzen
Ryan Papenhuyzen runs with ball in hand for Melbourne Storm in an NRL game in 2024

Sydney-born Papenhuyzen will turn 26 later this month. He debuted in the NRL for Melbourne aged 20 back in 2019, and the following year was crowned a champion of the Australian Elite, named man of the match in the Grand Final triumph against Penrith Panthers.

The full-back – who has represented Australia in 9s format but has Dutch heritage – has 56 tries in 80 first-grade appearances to date, yet to don any other club than the Storm’s shirt.

Austria – Thomas Fletcher (South Sydney Rabbitohs)

Second-rower Fletcher – who has Austrian heritage – only turned 20 in January, and was picked up a few years back playing at youth level for his local side while still in school.

Hailing from the town of Coonamble, Fletcher has featured in the New South Wales Cup for the first time this year, playing 75 minutes on debut at that level against the Roosters. Already regularly involved in training with the first-team, he is one to watch.

France – Ben Garcia (Catalans Dragons)

Ben Garcia
Ben Garcia warms up ahead of a Catalans Dragons game in 2024

One of few picks assigned to their country of birth, it feels like Catalans captain Garcia – who hails from the commune of Apt in the South of France – has been with the Dragons forever. His rugby league journey at youth level though includes a decent chunk of time in Australia, signed by Catalans in 2013 as a 20-year-old having impressed Down Under.

Now 31 and with close to 250 career appearances under his belt, 15-time France international Garcia actually signed for Penrith ahead of the 2016 season, but departed and returned to Catalans before he’d made a competitive appearance for the Panthers. A Challenge Cup winner with them in 2018, only five men have more appearances for the Dragons in the British game than Garcia.

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Group E – Belgium, Slovakia, Romania, Ukraine

Belgium – Rafael Van Osselaer (Warrington Wolves Academy)

Van Osselaer is a Warrington local and played for Latchford Giants among other local community clubs, but also has Belgian heritage.

The young outside-back – who has dabbled in rugby union at youth level – also starred for Rochdale Mayfield while coming through the Wolves’ Scholarship system, and was then offered an academy contract at the end of the 2023 season.

Slovakia – Unknown

Despite the best efforts of the LoveRugbyLeague team, and having also sought the advice of international rugby league guru ‘He Can Play For‘ on X – formely Twitter – we’ve been unable to conjure up any player eligible to represent Slovakia.

If you know of any, then please get in touch with us! We’d love to know what rugby league’s answer to Marek Hamšík is!

Romania – Leivaha Pulu (Brisbane Tigers)

Leivaha Pulu
Leivaha Pulu runs with the ball in hand for the New Zealand Warriors in 2018

Born in Auckland, Pulu is a Tonga international – through his heritage – with one cap to his name picked up back in May 2017 against Fiji. But somewhere in his bloodline, the powerful forward also has some Romanian heritage as well as both Greek & Māori!

The 34-year-old now competes in the Queensland Cup for Norths Devils, the feeder club of NRL outfit Brisbane Broncos. Pulu himself has 58 first-grade appearances Down Under on his CV, made between the Gold Coast Titans & the New Zealand Warriors, though hasn’t featured in the NRL since 2019.

Ukraine – Nathan Cleary (Penrith Panthers)

Perhaps the best #7 in the world, three-time NRL champion Cleary is a World Cup winner having formed part of the Kangaroos’ squad in 2022. Sydney-born, the NSW representative broke through into the NRL in 2016, and has become a key part of dad Ivan’s Penrith side with over 160 first-grade appearances against his name.

Notably, Cleary could have also been chosen for Croatia here, but his Ukraine heritage is more documented, so that’s what we’ve opted for. In a documentary made by an Australian TV channel last year, in which a crew travelled to film the training sessions of an under-14s side in the war-torn nation, the Panthers star vowed he would one day pull on the Ukraine shirt and represent them!

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Group F – Turkey, Georgia, Portugal, Czech Republic

Turkey – Aidan Sezer (Wests Tigers)

Aidan Sezer
Aidan Sezer (centre) pictured in action for Wests Tigers in 2024

An NRL Grand Finalist with Canberra in 2019, Sezer had made over 150 first-grade appearances when he made the move to Super League with Huddersfield Giants in 2020. Moving on to Leeds in 2022, the playmaker went on to feature 62 times in the British game all told, as well as forming part of the Combined Nations All Stars side which took on England in 2021.

Sezer – who was born in Bankstown and has represented New South Wales at City level as well as the Indigenous All Stars – is now back in the NRL with Wests, who he’s featured eight times for so far this year, kicking eight goals in the process. The 32-year-old has a Turkish father, Yüçel, so could don their shirt if he wished to!

Georgia – Unknown

Again, we’re stumped on Georgia – let us know if you’ve found someone!

Portugal – Hugo Savala (Sydney Roosters – NSW Cup)

Half-back Savala, a Paddington Colts youngster with Portuguese heritage, forms part of the Roosters’ extended squad. He is often named in their initial squad ahead of a first-grade game but cut out ahead of gameday, much like how 21-man and 18-man squads work over here.

Accordingly, the Coogee native awaits his NRL debut, but has been impressing in the New South Wales Cup over the last 18 months. In that second-grade competition, the towering playmaker now has five tries in 14 appearances, scoring a hat-trick earlier this year as the Roosters’ reserves beat Manly’s second string.

Czechia – Ben Lavender (St George Illawarra Dragons U21s)

Ben Lavender
St George Illawarra Dragons youngster Ben Lavender pictured in 2021; Photo Credit: Paul Jones – The University of Wollongong, Australia

Rounding things off with another NRL youngster, Lavender – whose ancestry links back to the Czech Republic – has been a star of the show for St George’s Jersey Flegg Cup side.

Primarily a centre, the youngster has shown his versatility in recent weeks, slotting in at full-back and looking impressive while doing so. He is knocking on the door to make the step up to play for the Dragons’ NSW Cup side.

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