The Combined Nations All Stars facing off against England has been one of renewed additions to the rugby league calendar of the past two years, as yet unconfirmed for 2023 we’re predicting which Super League stars could be facing England?
Rebranded and reintroduced in 2021 the current Combined Nations vs England head-to-head is tied with one win a piece, the Combined Nations securing a 26-24 victory in 2021 before England won in more conclusive fashion with an 18-4 victory in 2022.
It’s a hugely popular addition to the season and with the series so far tied it makes plenty of sense for it to be renewed for 2023, so this is a prediction of what that team could look like, not necessarily a run down of the best international players in each position.
Seven players, Kenny Edwards, Kruise Leeming, Peter Mata’utia, Matt Prior, Chris Satae, Ken Sio and Kelepi Tanginoa have played for the All Stars on both occasions but of the six remaining in Super League (Prior has retired), how many will make this predicted squad for 2023?
1: Jai Field – Wigan Warriors, Australia
The Wigan Warriors star has seriously impressed in his two seasons in England and will look to build on his Dream Team selection in 2022 with a successful 2023. His inclusion in this predicted squad kicks out Warrington’s Peter Mata’utia who featured in 2022.
2: Ken Sio – Salford Red Devils, Samoa
Sio has been a mainstay in the Super League try-scoring charts since his arrival to the Super League in 2015 with Hull KR, however he’s been even better at Salford and as such he could get his third selection to the All Stars team, for whom he has scored three tries in two games.
3: Nene Macdonald – Leeds Rhinos, Papua New Guinea
A new addition to Super League and a new addition to this team, Macdonald has yet to take the field for Leeds but linking up with his former coach Rohan Smith should earn him a call-up here if he can replicate the form of 2022. Whilst this would be a debut in this format, Macdonald has played twice for the World All Stars in the NRL equivalent of this fixture.
4: Shaun Kenny-Dowall -Hull Kingston Rovers, New Zealand
The man who captained the All Stars in 2022 side is the Hull KR captain, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, and he’s set to be selected again. Following a year in which he was selected to the Dream Team and impressed massively in what was a young Rovers squad he should get the nod for the second time.
5: Bevan French – Wigan Warriors, Australia
The 2022 Super League top scorer and the man who set the record for the most tries in one game with seven, Bevan French has to be selected. He’ll feature in a predicted back five that’s incredibly skilled with plenty of players able to swap positions and he beats out some top competition.
6: Brodie Croft – Salford Red Devils, Australia
The current Man of Steel joins this team to no one’s surprise. Croft was superb last season and did actually play in this fixture, partnering new Castleford man Jacob Miller in the halves, but with Croft having just one year left on his contract then any excuse to get to see more of the talented 25-year-old earns him a spot in this predicted team.
7: Mason Lino – Wakefield Trinity, Samoa
Lino replaces his former teammate, Miller, in this side and with Croft switching to play six then Lino can be accommodated. Set to star for a very young and inexperienced Wakefield the Samoan will have to be on top form this year and I think he’ll show that with his leadership at Trinity and earn selection in this squad for the first time.
8: Romain Navarrete – Catalans Dragons, France
A bit of a punt here with the prop position with a surprising amount of the competitions best props being English. Navarrete returns to Catalans after a spell at Wigan and then Toulouse Olympique but the 28-year-old will have plenty to offer this side.
9: Edwin Ipape – Leigh Leopards, Papua New Guinea
The first sighting of a Leopard on the list and it goes to the young talented hooker Ipape. Coming off a brilliant season in the Championship where he tallied 23 tries, Ipape beats out Kruise Leeming (Eswatini) and Daryl Clark (Scotland), who both featured for the All Stars in 2022.
10: Chris Satae – Hull FC, Tonga
Another player who has featured in both of the All Star performances so far and that is in part why Satae is predicted here. As alluded to the prop position doesn’t have a stand-out and with David Fifita having left Super League there’s a void in the 10 shirt. Satae beats out the likes of teammate Ligi Sao (Samoa) as well as Gil Dudon (Wales), Zane Tetevano (New Zealand and Cook Islands) and (Sam Kasiano (New Zealand and Samoa).
11: Manu Ma’u – Catalans Dragons, Tonga and New Zealand
Ma’u joins the French outfit from Hull FC and he’ll be part of a pack that features former and current teammates, Ligi Sao and Romain Navarrete. The 34-year-old has signed a two-year contract with the Dragons and will be crucial if they’re to try and replicate the playoff form of the past two years.
12: Rhyse Martin – Leeds Rhinos, Papua New Guinea
In what would be his second appearance for the Combined Nations we could see Martin feature again in 2023. If all goes well this season Martin will push towards 100 appearances for Rhinos and he could well even kick for this side having tied the World Record for most consecutive successful conversions at 41 during the recent World Cup.
13: Luke Yates – Huddersfield Giants, Australia
Featuring for the All Stars in 2021 but having missed out in 2022, Yates could be set to return. Confirmed once again as Huddersfield captain he’ll lead this pack from the 13 position after having led the Giants to their most successful season in over a decade.
14: Tim Lafai – Salford Red Devils, Samoa
Unlucky not to make the cut in the starting back five, Lafai is set to be talked about a lot this season, especially following his two try performance in his nation’s semi-final victory over England.
15: Josh McGuire – Warrington Wolves, Australia
One of the Wire’s new signings and someone who could even step into the shoes of club captain, McGuire has huge pedigree having won the 2017 World Cup, playing in the 6-0 victory in the final over England. A forward who packs a punch with his hard running and relentless work-rate.
16: Kruise Leeming – Leeds Rhinos, Eswatini
Leeming might not be confirmed as captain for Rhinos in 2023 but he led them out on Boxing Day and he’d be a brilliant asset to have from the bench in this side. Having already represented the All Stars twice he would become one of just a handful to feature for a third successive time.
17: Ligi Sao – Hull FC, Samoa
Sao joins his teammate Satae, albeit on the bench, for what would be his second appearance in this fixture. The Combined Nations will need plenty of firepower and depth in the pack against an England side that could feature the likes of Matty Lees, Alex Walmsley, Morgan Knowles and Mike McMeeken among others, something that Sao provides in abundance.