Starting XVII: Is this how Australia will line up at the 2021 World Cup?

After predicting how Super League clubs would line up ahead of the 2020 season, we thought we’d do the same for the nations competing at next year’s World Cup.

First up is reigning champions Australia, who have seen several stars retire in recent years, including Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk, Johnathan Thurston and Billy Slater.

Here’s who we think will replace them, and how the rest of the side will shape up…

Fullback – James Tedesco

Tedesco is gearing up for his third World Cup, but it will be his first for Australia. He represented Italy at the 2013 and 2017 tournaments but has been Australia’s first-choice fullback for the past two years. The 2019 Dally M Medal winner, Tedesco has it all – the speed and agility, the vision and intelligence, and the defensive nous. He’ll be key if the Aussies are to retain their title.

Wingers – Tom Trbojevic and Josh Addo-Carr

Australia have an abundance of outside backs to choose from but it’s likely to be two World Cup debutants who line up on the flanks. Despite his primary position being fullback, Trbojevic has proved he can be a threat on the wing scoring three in four games for the Green and Gold and five from as many appearances for New South Wales. On the opposite side Addo-Carr is a certified speed machine. His electric pace and finishing ability have built him a reputation as one of the NRL’s most prolific wide men and he’ll be looking to show that in his maiden tournament.

Tom Trbojevic.

Centres – Latrell Mitchell and Jack Wighton

Mitchell has been the subject of much scrutiny in the past 12 months, mainly due to off-field disputes and patchy form. On his day, though, he’s a world beater. Comparisons to Greg Inglis aren’t made for no reason – he’s got similar size, power and athleticism. He just needs to get his head down and find some consistency. Wighton, on the other hand, is renowned for exactly that. He’s been a leader at Canberra for the past few years and can terrorise defences with his vision and late footwork. He’ll struggle to nudge Cameron Munster out of the stand-off spot but can be just as effective in the centres.

Halves – Cameron Munster and Daly Cherry-Evans

After the retirement of Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk, Munster and Cherry-Evans have stepped into their sizeable shoes for the national team. DCE will likely take charge, leading the team around the field, while Munster will add some unpredictability by playing what’s in front of him. The pair have 14 years-worth of international game time between them so should be experienced enough to step up to the plate in the absence of the aforementioned legends.

Props – Josh Papalii and David Klemmer

David Klemmer.

It’s hard to believe Papalii will only be 29 when the World Cup arrives, as he’s seemingly been around for ages. A dependable option in the front row, he and David Klemmer are the perfect engine room to set the platform for the backs to work their magic. Neither shy away from hard work and aren’t afraid to assert their dominance over opposition packs.

Hooker – Damien Cook

Cook is an expert at controlling the ruck and is the kind of player who will take a mile if given an inch. A former beach sprinter, his explosive pace out of dummy half will consistently get his side on the front foot and create gaps in opposition defences.

Second Rowers – Boyd Cordner and Wade Graham

Cornder and Graham are two very different back rowers but equally as effective. Cordner is among the best line runners in the world, while Graham’s previous experience playing in the halves means he has the sort of quality touches to create chances for those outside him.

Boyd Cordner.

Loose Forward – Jake Trbojevic

Trbojevic is arguably the best loose forward in the world and has revolutionised how the position is played. Not only does he have the physical attributes, having played at prop in his junior days, but he’s also developed the ball playing skills required in the modern game. He manages to find a good balance between the two and will be one of several leaders in the Australian side.

Subs – Cameron Murray, Payne Haas, David Fifita and Tyson Frizell

The Kangaroos are blessed with endless young talents coming through their ranks, with Murray, Haas and Fifita among the best on offer. Murray is a workhorse, taking tireless carries through the middle of defences and is able of making plenty of post-contact metres. Haas and Fifita, on the other hand, are both explosive runners with leg speed some outside backs would be envious of. Completing the bench, Frizell’s versatility along the forward line makes him a excellent option should Mal Meninga need to inject some aggression and energy into his side.

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[…] kicking things off with Australia yesterday, today’s edition of ‘Starting XVII’ focuses on […]