Rugby League World Cup Preview: England
August 12, 2022
At The Sporting Base, we will be previewing all 16 Rugby League World Cup nations ahead of the men’s tournament’s kick-off on 15 October. In the opening part of the series, we look at hosts England and their odds of one-upping their 2017 World Cup campaign.
IRL Ranking: 3rd
Schedule: Sāmoa (15 Oct @ St James’ Park, Newcastle); France (University of Bolton Stadium, Bolton); Greece (Bramall Lane, Sheffield)
World Cup Appearances: 6 (1975, 1995, 2000, 2008, 2013, 2017)
Best Result: Runners-Up (1975, 1995, 2017)
Head Coach: Shaun Wane
Title Odds: $8.00
The English side will be buoyed by the inclusion of several high-profile NRL players as they set their sights on World Cup glory on home soil. They will face Sāmoa in the tournament opener in Newcastle before clashes against an improving French squad and World Cup rookies Greece.
Their most recent international outing was a 30-10 win over France in Perpignan last October in which John Bateman and Tommy Makinson bagged doubles.
Victor Radley’s deflection from Australia should prove a major boost for England with fellow NRLers Thomas Burgess, Elliott Whitehead, Luke Thompson and Ryan Sutton set to jostle for spots in the forward pack alongside Super League campaigners John Bateman, Alex Walmsley, Morgan Knowles, Mike Cooper, Liam Farrell, Mikolaj Oledzki and Matty Lees.
England’s spine is far from set with the likes of Sam Tomkins, Jonny Lomax, Jack Welsby, George Williams, Harry Smith and Mikey Lewis among the names competing for spots at the back and in the halves whilst Jackson Hastings will be racing the clock to prove his fitness after suffering a fibula fracture set to sideline him for up to three months. Veteran Gareth Widdop will be unavailable through injury.
The outside backs are similarly unset with Super League veterans Tommy Makinson, Ryan Hall, Mark Percival, Jake Connor, Zak Hardaker, Ash Handley and Joe Burgess expected to be considered along with Oliver Gildart, Harry Newman, and potentially Herbie Farnworth who is out indefinitely as he recovers from a long-term bicep injury.
Their hooking situation will be in need of some resolving with Josh Hodgson unavailable through injury and James Roby retired from international duty. Michael McIlorum, Kruise Leeming, Paul McShane and Daryl Clark are among those who could spend time with the nine on their back.
Whilst this squad may not possess the same firepower as the side that fought with Australia to the death in the 2017 World Cup Final, their strong and skilful forward pack coupled with some classy playmakers and outside backs will bother fellow title contenders, particularly if their home fans can bring some added energy.