NRL players who could be in England’s 2021 World Cup squad

The logistics needed to pull off the World Cup this year are going to be gargantuan.

For all intents and purposes, the event is still going ahead but there are still some doubts over how teams flying in from all over the world will be able to compete at a time where Covid-19 could, and more than likely will, still be a problem.

The men’s group stages are expected to take place on the 23rd of October with the women’s and wheelchair group stages commencing on the 9th and 11th of November respectively, so who knows where the world will be by that point? Hopefully, a little more back to normal. 

As it is, Shaun Wane has done his best to uphold the integrity of the England job which has been lacking in past years. He is not a man to sit on his laurels if a player falls beneath expectations. He has already culled seven players from his original squad; Josh Charnley, Liam Watts, and Jack Hughes will no longer pull on the Red and White as well as Chris Hill, Josh Jones, Scott Taylor, and Reece Lynn. Wane has told them that if their game improves this season then they could still be selected. Until that time, definitely not. 

One thing that is guaranteed however, is that a contingent of English NRL players will more than likely make the squad. Australia only want the best from these shores, so it is natural to assume that a large number of them will appear in an England squad. Here are seven NRL players who could achieve selection in the World Cup for 2021. 

George Williams – Canberra Raiders 

The former Wigan superstar was a huge signing for the Raiders for the 2020 season. Anybody who watched Canberra play last year will have seen George Williams fitting in seamlessly at the ‘Green Machine’ with the halfback a huge threat to the opposition. He is not only a great tackler and runner, but he is a terrific feeder of the ball and created many of Canberra’s chances, especially after Josh Hodgson was unfortunately injured. He represented England in the 2017 World Cup and it looks extremely likely that he will play for England again. 

Luke Thompson – Canterbury Bulldogs

The ‘Dogs’ have been quietly building up a head of steam with their signings in the off-season, but they stamped their intent on the direction they wanted to go in last year. When they signed Luke Thompson from St. Helens in 2020 it was a boost for the Bulldogs as he wasn’t meant to play until 2021. Despite this, he appeared from Round 9 onwards until he was banned after being found guilty of eye-gouging resulting in four missed games. However, in the ten appearances he made, Thompson was shown to be a powerful carrier of the ball and came close to scoring on more than one occasion. Coupled with his record at Saints, Shaun Wane was suitably impressed.   

Elliot Whitehead – Canberra Raiders

The more intense a game gets, such as the semi-final Premiership loss to eventual champions Melbourne last year, the more Elliot Whitehead rallies. Entering his sixth season with the Raiders, he is an integral part of their starting line-up and is a definite fan favourite. A dogged tackler with a never-say-die attitude, Elliot Whitehead is a certain choice for England in what may very well be his last World Cup. But with how big his work ethic is and how injury free he has stayed Down Under, he would probably contest that. 

Tom Burgess – South Sydney Rabbitohs

Burgess is a name that is so synonymously linked with Rugby League that it will go down in history as one of, if not the best, sporting families in the world. Passed from father (Mark Burgess who played for Nottingham, Rochdale, Dewsbury and Hunslet) to son, the four Burgess brothers have left an indelible mark on the frontier of Rugby League. Sam may have been the first to make a breakthrough at ‘The Bunnies’, but that does not mean to say that Tom Burgess didn’t possess the skills they were after. A player who cannot be missed on the field, Tom Burgess is a true powerhouse and it is no surprise that he has been a regular in any denomination of an England side since 2013.

Ryan Sutton – Canberra Raiders

A product of the England Knights and England 9s squads in 2018 and 2019 respectively, Ryan Sutton is poised to break into the England team. He served with distinction at Wigan from 2014-18, appearing 119 times for the Cherry & Whites and is now going into his third season with Canberra. Missing out on the club’s first Premiership Final in twenty five years, he is very much used to playing big game Rugby League. He played in two Grand Finals and one Challenge Cup Final whilst in Super League and he holds a massive amount of potential which is being unlocked in the NRL. He would relish the opportunity to represent England on the international stage. 

Herbie Farnworth- Brisbane Broncos

The three best young players to have come out of England in recent years are Harry Newman, Jack Welsby, and Herbie Farnworth. The end. They all seem to have an older-than-their-years rugby brain engaged already and you can see it when they play. But Super League has never seen Farnworth because he was poached by Brisbane whilst he was still at school! In his second NRL season, he was undoubtedly one of the shining lights in a Brisbane team that claimed the wooden spoon, but don’t let that fool you. With the quality of teams in the NRL (look how many different Premiership winners they have had over the years!) being one of the best players in the team at the bottom doesn’t matter. Herbie Farnworth lets his skill do the talking and to see him represent England would be a great exhibition for England fans and for him too to get to play on home soil. 

Josh Hodgson – Canberra Raiders

The Marauder with his band of Raiders, Josh Hodgson is a calculated, tactical, and masterful rugby player. His season ending injury last year somewhat took the wind out of the Raiders’ sails. If Hodgson had played in that semi-final against the Storm, the outcome may have been different, such is the gravitas of this man. He is calm when on the field and never gets rankled by anything which is why he is able to initiate plays so well. And, the hooker has been capped over twenty times in international rugby, but with his performances seemingly getting better as the years roll on, the 2021 World Cup may be Hodgson’s greatest display yet. 

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