Players to watch at the World Cup

Australia – Tom Trbojevic

‘Turbo’ by name, ‘turbo’ by nature, this versatile three-quarter boasts plenty of pace and agility. The 21-year-old Manly Sea Eagle has been tearing up NRL defences since breaking onto the scene in 2015 and will now finally get his chance at the highest level. Scoring 30 tries in 55 career appearances so far, Trbojevic certainly isn’t afraid of the try-line.

England – Alex Walmsley

He’s been pushing for a chance at the international stage for a while now. Walmlsey’s physical attributes mean he has all the potential to be a world class forward, backed up by the fact that he was top metre-maker in Super League this year. Coming up against the likes of Aaron Woods, Adam Blair and Jason Taumalolo is a different beast altogether but here’s hoping he rises to the challenge.

France – Mark Kheirallah

He’s actually France’s third choice full-back, but will have a huge effect on how far they progress in the tournament. Defensively safe with a great touch of attacking flare, the Australian-born no.1 will be looking to carry his great form into the tournament, after winning the Championship Shield with Toulouse. Les Tricolors have plenty of absentees, so Kheirallah will play a key part.

Lebanon – Adam Doueihi

Doueihi is an all-kicking, all-scoring stand-off who has impressed in the South Sydney U20s this season. Scoring 116 points in just 12 games, it’s no surprise Brad Fittler included the 19-year-old in his squad, where he’ll form a youthful but exciting partnership with Mitchell Moses. He’s got plenty of confidence for such a young man, and will relish the opportunity to play against the likes of Cooper Cronk and Gareth Widdop.

New Zealand – Te Maire Martin

With the Kiwis having no nailed on partner for Shaun Johnson, Martin will certainly fancy his chances of filling the no.6 jersey. The 22-year-old finished the season as a Grand Final runner-up, deputising for the injured Johnathan Thurston throughout North Queensland’s finals campaign. Martin’s not a running half-back, but reads the game well and should complement Johnson’s playing style well should he be given a chance.

Te Maire Martin playing for the Penrith Panthers in the NRL in 2016.

Samoa – Ken Maumalo

There’s a reason this 23-year-old is nicknamed ‘the Mini-Beast’, after legendary winger Manu Vatuvei. Maumalo replaced big Manu in the New Zealand Warriors side primarily due to having a similar build and style to the now-Salford winger. Whether he can come close to carving out such a career from himself is yet to be seen, but the initial signs are certainly promising.

Scotland – Brandan Wilkinson

The Bradford back-rower is virtually unknown to fans, but has all the potential to become a top player. Him and St Helens-bound James Bentley have been silver linings in the Bulls’ otherwise disappointing campaign, proving that the club can still produce top talent. The 20-year-old has a great defensive attitude and is strong in attack, so will benefit greatly from experiencing a World Cup atmosphere.

Tonga – Ata Hingano

Once dubbed ‘the next Shaun Johnson’, Hingano is your classic off-the-cuff half-back. He plays what’s in front of him and can dictate defences with his dangerous unpredictability. He’ll likely take the supporting half-back role behind Tuimoala Lolohea, but this will allow him to play a more free and open game. He’s a real gun player and will be a vital cog in the Tongan wheel.

Papua New Guinea – Stargroth Amean

One of the most extravagant names in the tournament, and one of the most extravagant styles too. This 26-year-old full-back has been a standout for the PNG Hunters this season, scoring numerous tries with his deceptive strength and rangy sidestep. He’s got tough competition from David Mead for the no.1 berth, but will relish the challenge of testing himself against the best in the world.

Wales – Regan Grace

The 20-year-old from Port Talbot has already made a name for himself in Super League, but how will he fare in the international arena? He has bags of pace, while his finishing is already among some of the world’s best so it’s no wonder he finished the season on 11 tries from just 24 games. There’s no doubt he will be one of John Kear’s main target men this Autumn.

Five things RL
Regan Grace made his St Helens debut on Good Friday this season.

Ireland – James Kelly

In a squad packed with big names, Kelly is a bit of a dark horse within. A smart half-back originally from Dublin, the 25-year-old split his 2017 season between Sheffield Eagles and Coventry Bears, including scoring a try on debut for the former. His talent is still raw, but he’ll benefit massively from working alongside Liam Finn.

Fiji – Suliasi Vunivalu

The Melbourne flyer plays in his first World Cup, after exploding onto the NRL scene over the past two years. He’s quick, strong and is one heck of a finisher, scoring 23 tries this season – the joint highest in the league. Give Vunivalu an inch and he’ll take a mile, so expect this agile 21-year-old to regularly trouble the scoresheet.

Italy – Jack Johns

This young half-back has a big surname to live up to. Johns is the son of legendary Newcastle, Cronulla and Wigan half Matty and nephew of NRL Immortal Andrew. Judging by his form in the Knights’ Academy this year, it seems he’s inherited plenty of traits from his famous relatives. The 20-year-old has superb running and kicking games, while his vision is that of someone much more experienced. This kid is set for big things over the next couple of years, starting next week.

USA – Nick Newlin

Newlin is your typical enforcing front rower. He’s big, powerful and certainly an intimidating figure to come up against. A World Cup call-up tops off a sensational year for the 30-year-old, after he captained the Atlanta Rhinos to their first ever league title, alongside fellow Hawk Hiko Malu. Newlin is one of many unknowns in the USA squad, as they look to top 2013’s quarter-final achievements.

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