24 Jun 2022
Ones to watch as Southern Hemisphere warm up for RLWC2021
Some of the biggest stars in Rugby League will represent their international sides for the first time in 2022, as the Southern Hemisphere ramps up their RLWC2021 preparation this weekend.
Following last weekend’s mid-season internationals – which saw England Men’s, Women’s and Wheelchair sides all win and France Men overcome Wales – all focus is now down under.
New Zealand and the Pacific Nations will be in representative action on Saturday, June 25, including a mouthwatering Mens and Womens fixtures between the Kiwis and Tonga.
Other match-ups on a mammoth day of Rugby League include Cook Islands Men taking on Samoa, and Papua New Guinea playing Fiji.
These games follow Lebanon’s preparations starting well with a 30-14 victory over Malta on Wednesday.
This week’s games will give fans in England a taste of what’s to come and the biggest stars heading their way this autumn, as well as their opening day opponents
With so much action to keep track of, we’ve highlighted some of the players to watch this weekend!
New Zealand Women
.@krystal_rota with the match winner!
🎟- https://t.co/xlW8DMym6y #NRLAllStars pic.twitter.com/iDX379QGzu
— NRLW (@NRLWomens) January 30, 2020
The first game on Saturday will see the Ferns take on Tonga Women, with Krystal Rota made captain for the occasion. Rota will be the most experienced player on the field with nine caps, and the Newcastle Knights hooker will be hoping to bring her young side up to the standards that saw them reach the RLWC2017 final.
Tonga won’t have a women’s side in RLWC2021, but with such a wealth of talent from the country they will be hoping to build a strong side ahead of the 2025 tournament. One player already with fine rugby league pedigree is Mailangi who is the cousin of St Helens and Tonga Men’s Will Hopoate, and plays for South Sydney in the NRLW.
New Zealand Men
Ridiculous no-look flick from Manu 👏🏼#NRLRoostersDragons#TelstraPremiership pic.twitter.com/AeoqkvjqEd
— NRL (@NRL) June 26, 2020
It’s strange to think RLWC2021 could be the first World Cup for the Sydney Roosters back, who has become one of the NRL’s biggest names. He has already had international experience though, instrumental in the Kiwi’s 26-24 win over Australia in 2018, as well as beating Great Britain in 2019.
The floater from Keary sends Tupou in for the first Try of the #NRLGF!#NRL pic.twitter.com/eR1AqFvhp9
— NRL (@NRL) September 30, 2018
Daniel Tupou’s Tonga career is the stuff of dreams, he played in the 2013 Rugby League World Cup where Tonga went home in the group stages before their incredible run to the semi-finals in 2017. Since then, Tonga have beaten Great Britain and Australia and will know a win against New Zealand this weekend could see them arrive in England with a realistic chance of lifting silverware for the first time.
Penrith’s Taylan May is currently the joint top try scorer in the NRL and the 20-year-old is one of the hottest prospects in Rugby League. If he stays in this form, he’ll be one of the stars to watch at St James’ Park come October 15th.
Cook Islands Men
The Cook Islands will be hoping to match their Pacific neighbours and be competitive in a difficult group at RLWC2021, so Samoa will be a big test this weekend. With three caps for Cook Islands and six for New Zealand, Esan Marsters will be one of the most experienced players in the squad.
CHARGEDOWN 💥 What a play by Kikau in his 💯th #NRL game!#NRLDragonsPanthers pic.twitter.com/lC9KFPzQ6R
— NRL (@NRL) March 18, 2022
This season, Kiaku reached 100 NRL games as part of the form side in Penrith and the forward was named in Team of the Tournament at RLWC2017. He’ll be leading from the front as Fiji aim to get their World Cup preparations off to a strong start.
Papua New Guinea Men
The NRL’s top try scorer in 2020, the NRL’s top try scorer in 2021 and, guess what? He’s currently sat joint top for 2022 as well. You know what you’re getting with the South Sydney winger, and if he brings that club form to the representative game then we’re in for a treat.