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Rugby League World Cup 2021: Meet the 16 men's teams taking part in this year's tournament in England

A group-by-group look at the 16 teams taking part in the men's tournament at RLWC2021; Find out the head coaches, captains, players to watch and what is expected of all of the competitors battling it out to lift the Paul Barriere Trophy

Picture by Paul Currie/ - 12/07/2021 - Rugby League - Rugby League World Cup Trophy Tour - Old Trafford, Manchester, England - Paul Barriere Rugby League World Cup The Women's Rugby League World Cup and The Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup at Old Trafford - Trophy Tour, Men's, Women's and Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup trophies

We profile the 16 teams taking part in the men's tournament as the Rugby League World Cup returns to England this year...

Group A


Head coach: Shaun Wane.

Captain: Sam Tomkins.

Picture by Allan McKenzie/ - 30/09/2022 - Rugby League - England Rugby League Men's Team Announcement - Worsley Marriott, Worsley, England - Sam Tomkins at the England Men's Rugby League team announcement.
Image: Sam Tomkins is hoping to skipper England to World Cup glory

Previous World Cup best: Runners-up x3 (1975, 1995, 2017).

Player to watch: Victor Radley. If you have any interest in the NRL, you will have seen what the Sydney Roosters star can do. After making a shock decision to represent the birthplace of his Sheffield-born dad and give up his chance to play State of Origin in Australia, Radley will be out to prove that he made the right call. His hard-hitting will only elevate this forward-heavy England side, so expect crunching tackles, hard running and some pretty big fireworks.

What to expect: A side brimming with potential are aiming to go one step further than their 2017 World Cup Final loss against Australia, but they have some big challenges on their way. A clash with a talent-laden Samoa side awaits them at the World Cup opener, but unknown entities on the international stage such as Jack Welsby, Herbie Farnworth and Dom Young will be hoping to be the surprise package which see England defy all expectations. The quarter-finals should be a given but the journey after that is unknown.

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Head coach: Laurent Frayssinous.

Captain: Benjamin Garcia.

Picture by Allan McKenzie/ - 10/07/2022 - Rugby League - Betfred Super League Magic Weekend - Catalans Dragons v Warrington Wolves - St. James' Park, Newcastle, England - Benjamin Garcia.
Image: Catalans' Benjamin Garcia captains France

Previous World Cup best: Runners-up x2 (1954, 1968).

Player to watch: Arthur Mourgue. One of the emerging talents of French rugby league and capable of slotting in at full-back or the halves, Mourgue has caught the eye for Catalans Dragons in the Betfred Super League and now has the opportunity to make a name for himself on the world stage.

What to expect: Given they are in a group with hosts England, who beat them 30-10 last October, and a star-studded Samoa team, it will be a tough ask for the French to reach the knock-out stages. Nevertheless, this is a side with plenty of Super League experience and should prove competitive, whoever they are up against.


Head coach: Matt Parish.

Captain: Anthony Milford.

Toa Samoa halfback Jarome Luai, during the rugby league match between the Samoa and Fiji, during the Triple Header matches for the Great Britain Lions rugby league Tour & the Oceania Cup, held at Eden Park, Auckland. 02 November 2019 Photo: Brett Phibbs / /
Image: Jarome Luai is one of eight players to have featured in this year's NRL Grand Final in Samoa's squad

Previous World Cup best: Quarter-finals x3 (2000, 2013, 2017).

Player to watch: Jarome Luai. The Penrith Panthers half-back has been lighting up the NRL and comes into the side after helping his club secure back-to-back Grand Final victories. The 25-year-old has talked a lot about the honour of representing his family heritage and his creativity, speed and personality will bring some high drama as this side aims to climb up the international rankings.

What to expect: This star-studded Samoa side is packed with speed, size and talent, not to mention eight NRL Grand Finalists who know how to win. Although they have never got further than the quarter-finals in previous World Cups, you would not be betting against this side to be in the final come November 19.


Head coach: Steve Georgallis.

Captain: Jordan Meads.

Picture by Richard Blaxall/ - 01/11/2019 - Rugby League - Rugby League World Cup Qualifier - Greece v Scotland - New River Stadium, London, England - Scotland look to break forward
Image: Greece are playing in their first Rugby League World Cup

Previous World Cup best: First time qualified.

Player to watch: Stefanos Bastas. The first native Greek rugby league player to secure a professional contract will be familiar to watchers of Betfred League One, having previously played for Hemel Stags, Doncaster and Coventry Bears, and the prop can be expected to lead from the front for his team.

What to expect: Just qualifying for RLWC2021 has been an achievement for this team, given some of the obstacles they have had to overcome, but while Greece are unlikely to progress beyond the group stage, it can only be good for the growth of rugby league in the country to have them participating on the world stage.

Group B


Head coach: Mal Meninga.

Captain: James Tedesco.

Kangaroo winger Josh Addo-Carr, during the rugby league match between the Australian Kangaroos and Tonga Invitational XIII, during the Triple Header matches for the Great Britain Lions rugby league Tour & the Oceania Cup, held at Eden Park, Auckland. 02 November 2019 Photo: Brett Phibbs / /
Image: Josh Addo-Carr will be a danger on the wing for Australia

Previous World Cup best: Winners x11 (1957, 1968, 1970, 1975, 1977, 1988, 1992, 1995, 2000, 2013, 2017).

Player to watch: Josh Addo-Carr. AKA 'The Foxx', the Melbourne Storm winger is regarded one of the fastest rugby league players in the world, with that speed being aligned with skill and vision which has made him a master of scoring spectacular tries in the NRL. One of a number in the Kangaroos squad who could light up this tournament.

What to expect: The 11-time winners head to England as the reigning champions and favourites to keep hold of the Paul Barriere Trophy. Having not played a Test match since 2019, though, Australia's squad is a somewhat inexperienced one on the international stage and head coach Mal Meninga has included 13 uncapped players in his squad.


Head coach: Joe Rabele.

Captain: Kevin Naiqama.

Fiji's captain Kevin Naiqama seen after the Rugby League World Cup Quarter Finals between New Zealand v Fiji, Wellington Regional Stadium, Saturday 18th November 2017. Copyright Photo: Raghavan Venugopal / .. 2017
Image: Kevin Naiqama leads Fiji at this year's World Cup

Previous World Cup best: Semi-finals x3 (2008, 2013, 2017).

Player to watch: Viliame Kikau. The second row is renowned for his offloading game and it is something he will be troubling teams with, as he did for Penrith Panthers in the NRL. Kikau has represented Fiji on 12 occasions and knows how to cross the whitewash, scoring eight tries for his country. He is strong, powerful and his attacking mindset is something to look out for on the left edge as Group B gets under way.

What to expect: Fiji put in a brilliant performance in 2017 as they were beaten by eventual winners Australia in the semi-finals and with the Kangaroos in their group for this year's tournament, they will be looking to rewrite the script. They are expected to make it to the quarter-final stages and then after that, this passionate side will have the belief they can go all the way.


Head coach: Nathan Graham.

Captain: Dale Ferguson.

Picture by Paul Currie/ - 24/10/2021 - Rugby League - Men's Autumn  International - Jamaica v Scotland - Millenium Stadium, Featherstone, England - Scotland's Ryan Brierley
Image: Ryan Brierley is one of the stand-out names in Scotland's squad

Previous World Cup best: Quarter-finals (2013).

Player to watch: Ryan Brierley. A veteran of Scotland's 2016 Four Nations and 2017 World Cup campaigns, the Salford Red Devils full-back goes into this year's tournament on the back of a strong season in the Betfred Super League and could provide the Bravehearts with the sort of maverick spark that Danny Brough used to.

What to expect: Drawn in the same group as defending champions Australia and semi-finalists in the past three tournaments Fiji, it will be difficult for Scotland to progress to the knock-out stages. However, they have proven themselves capable of giving the big boys a bloody nose before and will be optimistic of doing so again.


Head coach: Leo Epifania.

Captain: Brendan Santi.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 13: Nathan Brown of the Eels runs the ball during the round fourteen NRL match between the Parramatta Eels and Wests Tigers at Bankwest Stadium on June 13, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Steven Markham/Speed Media/Icon Sportswire)
Image: Nathan Brown is likely to be a key player for Italy

Previous World Cup best: Group stage x2 (2013, 2017).

Player to watch: Nathan Brown. The Parramatta Eels forward remains the Azzuri's stand-out player for this year and is by far the most experienced member of this side in transition. After losing some NRL stars to the Australia national side, Italy will be relying on his experience to help them defy the odds.

What to expect: Italy have been placed in a difficult group for this year's World Cup and they will have to put in the performance of their lives if they were to exit from the group stages. Fiji and Australia will be tough to beat and the clash with Scotland is set to be a grudge match.

Group C

New Zealand

Head coach: Michael Maguire.

Captain: Kieran Foran.

Brandon Smith.
New Zealand Kiwis v Mate Ma'a Tonga. International Rugby League test match, Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland, New Zealand. Saturday 25 June 2022. © Photo: Andrew Cornaga / - MANDATORY BYLINE/PHOTO CREDIT PhotosportNZ/
Image: Brandon Smith is one of the stars of the New Zealand team

Previous World Cup best: Winners (2008).

Player to watch: Brandon Smith. When looking for talent in this New Zealand side there is plenty, but it is hard to look past Smith. The now-Sydney Roosters hooker has been at the top of world rugby for many years and will be guiding the Kiwis around the pitch with ease, and will use his experience to control the game.

What to expect: They are the No 1 side in the world for a reason and it is pretty much nailed on that New Zealand will top the group, with the talent in this squad having the potential to be eventual winners. With six NRL Grand Finalists plus a whole host of other talents, including Joseph Tapine, Dylan Brown and Joey Manu, this side should be an absolute joy to watch as they show off some serious skill - with a potential semi-final clash with Australia on the cards.


Head coach: Michael Cheika.

Captain: Mitchell Moses.

Michael Cheika, head coach of Argentina, stands on the field prior to a rugby test match against Scotland in Salta, Argentina, Saturday, July 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
Image: Michael Cheika brings his international rugby union experience as coach of Lebanon

Previous World Cup best: Quarter-finals (2017).

Player to watch: Mitchell Moses. One of a number of NRL stars with Lebanese ancestry, the nephew of former Australia international hooker Benny Elias heads into the World Cup having helped Parramatta Eels reach the Grand Final and will be pulling the strings for the Cedars in the halves at this tournament.

What to expect: In a group where it seems as if the race to join expected qualifiers New Zealand in the knock-out stages is very much up for grabs, the Cedars will fancy their chances of repeating their last-eight appearance from five years ago. Head coach Michael Cheika brings a wealth of international experience from rugby union as well.


Head coach: Romeo Monteith.

Captain: Ashton Golding.

Picture by Paul Currie/ - 24/10/2021 - Rugby League - Men's Autumn  International - Jamaica v Scotland - Millenium Stadium, Featherstone, England - Jamaica's Ashton Golding
Image: Ashton Golding is one of the star names in the Jamaica squad

Previous World Cup best: First time qualified.

Player to watch: Ashton Golding. It is Super League stars who lead the way in this Jamaica side and none more so than Huddersfield Giants' Golding, who has represented the Reggae Warriors on four occasions and is one of their most potent attacking threats, which they will be looking to use to their advantage in a tough group.

What to expect: As the first Caribbean nation to qualify for the World Cup, it is a momentous occasion for Jamaica regardless of outcome as they look to inspire the next generation. Clashes with New Zealand, Lebanon and Ireland await them in the group stages, and anything is possible.


Head coach: Ged Corcoran.

Captain: George King.

Previous World Cup best: Quarter-finals (2000).

Player to watch: Luke Keary. Previously capped twice by Australia, the Sydney Roosters half-back has opted to represent his grandfather's home nation at this year's World Cup and should inject some dynamism into the team, which is further boosted by the inclusion of Super League stars like Richie Myler, Toby King and James Bentley.

What to expect: Every team in Group C will fancy their chances of reaching the knock-out stages and with a squad that includes some notable Super League and NRL talent, Ireland will be as confident of anyone of repeating their quarter-final appearance from their World Cup debut 22 years ago, which remains their best performance at rugby league's global gathering.

Group D


Head coach: Kristian Woolf.

Joint-captains: Jason Taumalolo and Sio Taukeiaho

Tonga player Jason Taumalolo during the New Zealand Kiwis v Mate Ma’a Tonga Men at Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland, New Zealand on Saturday 25 June 2022.
© Copyright photo: Andrew Cornaga / - MANDATORY BYLINE/PICTURE CREDIT PhotosportNZ/
Image: Jason Taumalolo has been one of the players leading Tonga's rugby league revolution

Previous World Cup best: Semi-finals (2017).

Player to watch: David Fifita. The Gold Coast Titans star has chosen to represent his father's Tongan heritage at this year's World Cup after previously representing Australia in the World Cup Nines three years ago. Fifita is a powerful addition to Tonga's second row and will cause problems for any opponent as his team seek to make more history at this year's tournament.

What to expect: The Tongans came within an Elliot Whitehead tackle of upsetting England in the semi-finals five years ago and a victory over Australia in 2019 served only to heighten expectations around the team. A squad packed with Super League and NRL talent and coached by the man who guided St Helens to victory in the past three Grand Finals is expected to excel in this tournament.

Papua New Guinea

Head coach: Stanley Tepend.

Captain: Rhyse Martin.

Rhyse Martin. Papua New Guinea Rugby League Team Portraits/team shoot, Christchurch, New Zealand, 6th November 2019. Copyright photo: John Davidson /
Image: Papua New Guinea skipper Rhyse Martin

Previous World Cup best: Quarter-finals (2000, 2017).

Player to watch: Rhyse Martin. The Leeds Rhinos star ended the season in fine form in Super League and he will be wanting to emulate that on the international stage as he leads his country. Martin is strong, dynamic and a constant threat in attack as he uses his power and speed down the edge to dominate sides. His accuracy with the boot will also be an advantage to this Papua New Guinea side after he kicked a record-breaking 38 goals in a row for the Rhinos.

What to expect: Papua New Guinea could be one of the real surprises of this year's tournament and as the fifth-ranked side in the world, they will be looking to provide some upsets. They bagged a huge win over Fiji earlier this year and have a combination of NRL experience together with young talents such as Lachlan Lam and, if they progress, it could see them set up a huge quarter-final clash with either Samoa or England.


Head coach: John Kear.

Captain: Elliot Kear.

Salford Red Devils' Rhys Williams scores a try against Warrington
Image: Wales will be hoping Rhys Williams can be a try-scoring outlet again

Previous World Cup best: Semi-finals x2 (1995, 2000).

Player to watch: Rhys Williams. The absence of rugby union-bound Regan Grace due to injury has robbed Wales of one of its most potent attacking threats, but fellow winger Williams has proven a prolific try scorer both in Super League and for the Dragons since making his debut for them in 2008. He brings plenty of experience to the party as well.

What to expect: Realistically, getting out of the group which includes the Pacific Island powerhouses of Tonga and Papua New Guinea would be an achievement for Wales. But head coach John Kear has proven capable of masterminding cup upsets at club level, and has assembled a team which will fight for each other and their country to the last.

Cook Islands

Head coach: Tony Iro.

Captain: TBC.

Leeds' Zane Tetevano
Image: Leeds forward Zane Tetevano will be leading the charge for the Cook Islands

Previous World Cup best: Group Stage (2000, 2013).

Player to watch: Zane Tetevano. If he gets it right, Leeds Rhinos middle Tetevano, combined with Catalans Dragons' Dylan Napa, will be a force in the front row for this Cook Islands side. Both will be coming out all guns blazing and looking to lead from the front as their strong pack lays the groundwork.

What to expect: The Cook Islands is a proud rugby league nation and will be looking to do everything they can to get out of the group stages. A clash with Wales will be one they aim to win, but they have two tough asks in beating both Papua New Guinea and Tonga.

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