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Predicting the England team for the 2026 Rugby League World Cup

The Autumn series between England and Tonga has now reached it’s conclusion, and its left Head Coach Shaun Wane with plenty of food for thought. 

Wane opted for a blend of experienced heads and youthful enthusiasm in his 24-man-squad for this three test series, and it has paid off. Wane’s side not only secured a clean sweep; but talented youngsters were given the chance to cut their teeth at the highest level.

But what could this mean for the World Cup in 2026? There’s a lot of Rugby League to be played before then, but Wane has indicated this series has laid the foundations for the build-up, so we’ve racked our brains and predicted how the England team will look for that World Cup.

Full-back: Jack Welsby 

The St Helens full-back has nailed down the number one shirt for years to come. He captained his side in the first two tests, and is the poster boy for English Rugby League. By the time 2026 comes around, Welsby should be entering his prime (if he’s not in it already) and be an established leader within the England set-up.

Wingers: Dom Young and Tom Johnstone 

The wings was a difficult decision, however we’ve opted for Dom Young and Tom Johnstone. Dom Young is already a superstar in the NRL, and like Jack Welsby he should be entering his prime by the time the World Cup comes around. Tom Johnstone has shown this series he can be a key player for England. His work in the first test proved crucial in securing the win, and played a big part in the other two wins as well. He has had a torrid time with injuries in recent years, but the 2023 season showed what he can do when fit, and if it continues he will deserve a place in the World Cup squad.

Centres: Herbie Farnworth and Harry Newman 

Herbie Farnworth and Harry Newman take our spots in the centres. Dolphins bound Herbie Farnworth needs no introduction, he is an X-factor player, and only missed this series due to injury. He too is another young player that will only improve ahead of the World Cup, and should walk into Shaun Wane’s side.

Harry Newman has had a tricky past with England, but when he was finally given his chance he took it with both hands. The Leeds man grew into the series and improved with every game. Furthermore, it looks like Wane has ironed him out off the pitch too, which will only make him a better player on it.

Half-backs: Harry Smith and George Williams 

Shaun Wane has said Harry Smith isn’t nailed on in the seven shirt, but it’s hard to ignore the Man of the Series. Smith was fantastic across the three tests against Tonga, but what was most impressive was the improvement in his goal-kicking. He is another player that will only improve ahead of the World Cup, and if this series is anything to go by he will be a brilliant test quality halfback by then.

Now, here’s the toughest call of them all, but Wane’s staunch support of George Williams gets him into our side, and he will also likely captain the team. Williams will be one of the more experienced players by the time the World Cup starts, as he will be 32 in 2026, and this will be a massive plus for Shaun Wane.

Props: Tyler Dupree and Ethan Havard 

Tyler Dupree wasn’t afforded much game time in this test series, but the Wigan Warriors man is up there as one of the best props in Super League, and will only improve in the future. He will undoubtedly have learned a great amount this Autumn from his time in the England camp, and the experience of being part of the ‘club England’ will be a big tick in his box in the eyes of Shaun Wane.

Dupree could also combine with his Warriors team mate Ethan Havard in 2026. Havard is another huge prospect, and whilst he struggled with injury in the latter stages of the season, he has already got international experience against France. Furthermore, by the time the World Cup comes around he will have more experience under his belt, and that should boost his chances to feature in Wane’s side.

Hooker: Andy Ackers 

The new Leeds Rhinos man held the number nine shirt in the tournament last year, and he also wears it in our predicted team for the 2026 tournament. He has already shown himself to be one of the best hookers in Super League, but his move to Headingley could take him to new heights and could see him re-enter the England fold for the World Cup.

Second-rowers: John Bateman and Kai Pearce-Paul 

It’s an NRL duo in the second-row, as John Bateman and Kai Pearce-Paul make our squad.

Bateman was another play who grew into the series, as he capped it off with a Man of the Match display at Headingley on Saturday. He already has plenty of international experience, and will be another experience head for the 2026 World Cup, which will prove vital for Wane’s side.

From one former Wigan Warrior to another, Kai Pearce-Paul is one of the most exciting young English prospects at the moment; and his move down under could see him become one of the best in the game. He has been given his England debut already in the win over France, so knows what it’ll take to win, but his move to the Newcastle Knights should help him nail down his spot in England’s squad for the foreseeable.

Loose forward: Victor Radley 

Another NRL star in this team is Sydney Roosters Victor Radley. He is already an experience NRL player at only 24-with over 100 appearances for his club- and has played well for England since his debut so should have the 13 shirt nailed down by the next World Cup.

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