The eye-catching 13 Wales could select if they chose from eligible players including Super League & NRL stars

Ben Olawumi
Harry Smith, Bradman Best, Gil Dudson

From left to right: Harry Smith, Bradman Best & Gil Dudson all feature in our ultimate Wales 13

Over the next few months, we’re looking at the dream side each nation could select if they were able to choose from every eligible player. Next up, it’s Wales!

In these feature pieces, we are selecting a starting 13 to represent a particular country. This can include players born there, those with heritage to the nation or even those eligible via residency rules.

It doesn’t matter where players ply their trade on the domestic front, be it in Super League, the NRL or even elsewhere. These line-ups are made in collaboration with He Can Play For on X (formerly Twitter). Make sure to check their page out!

So, without further ado, here’s Wales‘ dream 13…

1. Caleb Aekins (Featherstone Rovers)

Caleb Aekins
Caleb Aekins (ball in hand) in action for Wales at the delayed 2021 Rugby League World Cup

Kiwi native Aekins qualifies to play for Wales via his heritage, and has made three appearances for the Dragons to date, all coming at the delayed 2021 Rugby League World Cup. The full-back was selected for that tournament by Wales boss John Kear on the back of an impressive debut season in the British game with Leigh, helping the then-Centurions to promotion up to Super League.

Now 26, the ex-Penrith Panthers & Canberra Raiders ace has been with Featherstone since the beginning of last season, and has now scored 44 tries in 74 appearances at club level in the British game.

2. Luis Roberts (Leeds Rhinos)

Leigh-born Roberts also qualifies for Wales via his heritage, and made his senior international debut for Kear’s side in their mid-season international against France in June 2022. The 22-year-old, who has been with Leeds since last season, has donned the shirts of six different clubs in the British game so far in his career – including loan stints at Widnes Vikings & Bradford Bulls.

Also featuring for Valencia Hurricanes, 21 of his 60 official senior appearances at club level to this point have come for the Rhinos, with 20 for Swinton Lions. Alongside Aekins, he helped hometown club Leigh to promotion from the Championship in 2022 before making the move to Headingley.

3. Bradman Best (Newcastle Knights)

Bradman Best
Bradman Best in action for Newcastle Knights in 2024

Probably THE star in this lineup, Kear was trying to convince 22-year-old Best to don a Wales shirt in the last World Cup, though was unsuccessful in that quest. Two years on, the centre is now probably in the reckoning for a spot in the Kangaroos’ next squad having become one of the best in his position in the NRL.

The son of ex-London Broncos ace Roger Best, all 83 of the youngster’s first-grade appearances Down Under so far have come for the Knights having come through the club’s youth ranks. Born in the Central Coast, Best’s eligibility for Wales comes via heritage. Just imagine if he pulled on their shirt!

4. Jude Ferreira (Hunslet)

Young gun Ferreira has been one of the standout players in League 1 so far this season, scoring 13 tries in 16 appearances since his move to Hunslet in the off-season. The centre came through the youth ranks at Hull FC, but never made a senior appearance for the Black & Whites before departing at the end of the 2023 campaign.

Ferreira did however enjoy 11 games on loan for London in 2022. He qualifies for Wales through his grandfather, and was involved in Kear’s provisional squad ahead of the delayed 2021 Rugby League World Cup, but didn’t make the cut for the final 24-man version.

5. Mike Butt (Widnes Vikings)

Mike Butt
Mike Butt in action for Wales at the delayed 2021 Rugby League World Cup

Butt, 29, hails from Manchester but qualifies to play for Wales through his grandmother and has done on four occasions – scoring his first (and to this point okay) international try in the mid-season test against France in June 2022.

The winger’s entire senior career had been spent with Swinton Lions until the end of last season, scoring 101 tries in 174 appearances for the Lions – their top try-scorer in the summer era & third-highest appearance maker in the same period. Butt though followed boss Allan Coleman to Widnes, and has scored eight in his first 17 appearances for the Vikings.

6. Lewis Dodd (St Helens)

We’ve got a Widnesian duo in the halves, and it is some duo at that. Kicking it off is Dodd, who represented the Dragons at under-16 level, has Welsh heritage and is yet to don an England shirt. The 22-year-old has won everything possible with Saints having come through their academy, making his senior bow for the club in September 2020 against Wigan.

Just under four years on, he’s now made 81 first-team appearances in the Red V, scoring 28 tries in the process. Kicking the winning drop goal in the Red V’s historic 2023 World Club Challenge triumph in Australia against Penrith Panthers, Dodd himself will head Down Under next year and link up with NRL outfit South Sydney Rabbitohs.

7. Harry Smith (Wigan Warriors)

Harry Smith Wigan Warriors Alamy
Harry Smith in action for Wigan Warriors in 2024

Wigan star Smith hails from Widnes, and appears to have cemented his spot in the halves for Shaun Wane’s England side, but does have Welsh heritage so could theoretically don a Dragons shirt in the future should he wish!

The 24-year-old – who has already won everything there is to win with the Warriors – also featured for England Knights before making his breakthrough on the international front at senior level. With 16 appearances on dual-registration for Swinton and one for London Skolars thrown in, Smith is now just 14 off the milestone of 150 club career appearances.

8. Gil Dudson (Warrington Wolves / Salford Red Devils)

The first – and only – man born in Wales in this lineup is Trowbridge native Dudson, who has represented his home country on 18 occasions. Debuting for the Dragons in 2008, the prop appeared in the 2013 World Cup but missed out on selection for the delayed 2021 edition through suspension.

Now 34, Dudson donned the shirts of both Crusaders & South Wales Scorpions at the beginning of his career. A Super League Grand Final & Challenge Cup winner during his time with Wigan, the veteran is now in his second stint at Salford – on a season-long loan with the Red Devils from Warrington. He is 10 off the milestone of 300 club career appearances.

9. Denive Balmforth (Hull FC)

Denive Balmforth
Denive Balmforth in action for Newcastle Thunder in 2023

20-year-old Balmforth – who qualifies for Wales through his heritage – made his Hull FC debut in April 2022, and played four times at senior level that year, but last term spent the full season out on loan in the Championship with Newcastle Thunder.

The hooker also made an appearance on loan for Swinton at the beginning of June this year, but now appears to have earned a spot in FC’s first-team setup on a regular basis. Tries in his last two appearances for the Airlie Birds have taken his overall tally up to 10 in 35 senior appearances.

10. Sam Hughes (Canterbury Bulldogs)

Born in Cronulla, young gun Hughes also qualifies for Wales via his heritage. Having only turned 23 at the end of January, the powerful prop now has 20 NRL appearances and two tries on his CV, with 15 of those first-grade appearances coming this year for Cameron Ciraldo’s side.

The forward was picked up by the Bulldogs from Parramatta Eels, who he had been donning a shirt in the Jersey Flegg Cup (under-21s) for. Hughes began on the bench this year, but his last eight appearances have all seen him in a starting role.

11. Tyson Frizell (Newcastle Knights)

Tyson Frizell
Tyson Frizell in action for Wales at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup

(To our knowledge) the only man to play for three different countries, 32-year-old Frizell has represented Wales, Australia & Tonga with 22 international appearances to his name in total. Five of those came for Wales between 2011 and 2013, playing for the Dragons in the World Cup in the latter of those years.

Frizell was born in Wollongong (Australia) to a Welsh father and a Tongan mother. The second-rower’s next appearance for the Knights will be his 250th in the NRL having previously donned the shirts of both Cronulla Sharks and St George Illawarra Dragons. He has been with Newcastle since 2021.

12. Chester Butler (Bradford Bulls)

An eight-time Wales international, Butler made his debut for the Dragons in Port Moresby during the 2017 Rugby League World Cup against Papua New Guinea. The 28-year-old – whose dad Peter was a professional footballer – was born in Halifax, but his maternal grandfather Colin Dixon was a Wales international in rugby league and also represented Great Britain.

At Bradford since 2022, Butler recently surpassed a century of club career appearances, now sat on 53 for the Bulls. He has also donned a shirt for hometown club Halifax Panthers and played a sole Super League game for Huddersfield Giants in September 2019. While with Fax, the forward made two appearances as a loanee for South Wales Scorpions (‘Ironmen’ at the time)

13. Morgan Knowles (St Helens)

Morgan Knowles
Morgan Knowles in action for Wales at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup

Barrow-born forward Knowles rounds off this 13 and began his international career with Wales, making four appearances for the Dragons via his heritage between 2015 and 2017 before England came calling. His one try for Kear’s side came in Townsville against Fiji during the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.

The 27-year-old has since gone on to make a further seven appearances for England, featuring for Wane’s side at the delayed 2021 Rugby League World Cup. At club level, having been signed by Saints aged 15 and come through their youth ranks to make a senior debut in May 2015, Knowles has won everything there is to win – scoring 29 tries in 211 appearances to date.