Rugby League World Cup Preview: Wales - The Sporting Base

Rugby League World Cup Preview: Wales

October 4, 2022

Rugby League World Cup Preview: Wales

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 our final preview prior to the tournament’s kick-off, we look at Wales and what may be in store for their squad.

IRL Ranking: 16th

Group: D

Schedule: Cook Islands (Leigh Sports Village, Leigh); Tonga (Totally Wicked Stadium, St Helens); Papua New Guinea (Eco-Power Stadium, Doncaster)

World Cup Appearances: 5 (1975, 1995, 2000, 2013, 2017)

Best Result: Semi-finals (1995, 2000)

Head Coach: John Kear

Title Odds: $1001

Now two decades on from one of the golden eras of Welsh rugby league, the Dragons are hoping for a rejuvenated World Cup campaign next to their own backyard.

Their group stage will prove challenging with their tournament opener against the Cook Islands in Leigh a tall task before even tougher matchups against Tonga and Papua New Guinea.

They played their first international since 2018 in June of this year going down 34-10 to France in Albi.

They have not advanced past the group stage of the World Cup since 2000.

Their squad is headlined by Salford’s Rhys Williams, who is the most prolific try-scorer in their nation’s history, Wakefield’s Kyle Evans, and Leigh’s Caleb Aekins.

Aekins, who has 19 NRL games to his name and racked up 20 tries in 31 games for Leigh this season, looms as their first-choice fullback with Bradford’s Elliot Kear a depth option.

Skipper Rhys Williams will line-up on one flank with Wakefield’s Kyle Evans the favourite to partner him with London’s Dalton Grant and Swinton’s Mike Butt among contenders.

Bradford’s Rhys Evans, Whitehaven’s Will Evans, and Leigh’s Luis Roberts all provide head coach John Kear exciting centre options with York City’s Bailey Antrobus and Valleys Diehards’ James Olds also capable.

Their halves situation is an interesting one; Mounties’ Josh Ralph and Valleys Diehards’ Ollie Olds will both travel to the UK whilst Elliot Kear wore the seven in their loss to France in June alongside Widnes’ Matty Fozard.

Fozard had a strong year at hooker in Championship whilst Whitehaven’s Curtis Davies wore the nine earlier this year.

Their middle forwards will be headed by Bradford’s Ben Evans and Ant Walker along with Featherstone’s Dan Fleming, Rochdale’s Gavin Bennion, West Wales’ Joe Burke and Workington Town’s Connor Davies.

As for the edge forward stocks, Antrobus and Bradford’s Chester Butler started in the 11 and 12 jerseys against the French whilst Swinton’s Rhodri Lloyd and Barrow’s Tom Hopkins present Kear with depth options.

The Dragons will have their work cut out for them in Group D and will enter all three of their group clashes as outsiders.

Expecting them to advance past the group stage seems unlikely but given half of their squad are Welsh-natives, their clashes will be full of pride as they aim to improve on disappointing 2013 and 2017 campaigns.

Wales squad
  • Caleb Aekins (Leigh Centurions)
  • Bailey Antrobus (York City Knights)
  • Gavin Bennion (Rochdale Hornets)
  • Joe Burke (West Wales Raiders)
  • Chester Butler (Bradford Bulls)
  • Mike Butt (Swinton Lions)
  • Connor Davies (Workington Town)
  • Curtis Davies (Whitehaven)
  • Rhys Evans (Bradford Bulls)
  • Will Evans (Whitehaven)
  • Kyle Evans (Wakefield Trinity)
  • Ben Evans (Bradford Bulls)
  • Dan Fleming (Featherstone Rovers)
  • Matty Fozard (Widnes Vikings)
  • Dalton Grant (London Broncos)
  • Tom Hopkins (Barrow Raiders)
  • Elliot Kear (Bradford Bulls)
  • Rhodri Lloyd (Swinton Lions)
  • James Olds (Valleys Diehards)
  • Ollie Olds (Valleys Diehards)
  • Josh Ralph (Mounties)
  • Luis Roberts (Leigh Centurions)
  • Ant Walker (Bradford Bulls)
  • Rhys Williams (Salford Red Devils)

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