Five players who shone in Round 1

From George Williams to Nathan Brown, there were a string of impressive displays across the board

20 Oct 2022

Five players who shone in Round 1

From George Williams to Nathan Brown, there were a string of impressive displays across the board

By Josh Graham

Just like that Round 1 of the men’s Rugby League World Cup is done and dusted, with every team having had their first hit out.

Defending champions Australia and hosts England made strong starts on the opening day with emphatic victories over Fiji and Samoa respectively.

Italy impressed in their win over Scotland while New Zealand survived a scare to get past Lebanon after Ireland had seen off Jamaica on the Reggae Warriors’ debut on the big stage.

France saw off the competition’s other new boys Greece before Tonga beat Papua New Guinea and Cook Islands overcame Wales in close Group D encounters to bring the opening set of fixtures to a close.

Here we take a look at the players who impressed most in the first round.

George Williams

Fresh from the honour of leading England out in their 50-0 warm-up win over Fiji, George Williams was a force to be reckoned with in the No.7 jersey against Samoa at St James’ Park.

It has been a difficult year for the Warrington Wolves half-back with his club side struggling and he failed to hit the heights he expects of himself on the pitch in his first full season back in Super League since returning from the NRL.

However, he found his form of old – barking orders and marching England around the pack, showing off his range of crisp passing, kicking well and even scoring a try of his own.

Coach Shaun Wane never doubted his old Wigan player’s place in the side and the 27-year-old repaid that faith in abundance during a performance after which he could count himself unlucky to not have walked away with the player of the match award.

READ MORE: What are the teams for England v France?

Harry Grant

Undoubtedly making the biggest impact off the bench in Round 1, Kangaroos dummy-half Harry Grant was electric and took the game away from Fiji at Headingley.

The Melbourne Storm hooker scored a try and set up another with a fantastic kick and has been rewarded with a start against Scotland on Friday night.

Mal Meninga had opted to follow the Queensland formula of Ben Hunt to start with Grant to come on but this week roles are reversed against the Bravehearts and the 24-year-old could now hold the key to unleashing the Kangaroos’ attack as the tournament progresses.

READ MORE: Meninga's dilemma as in-form Cleary prepares for Kangaroos debut

Nathan Brown

Paramatta Eels lock Nathan Brown starred for Italy as they put in one of the displays of the round to beat Scotland 28-4 on Sunday.

Brown’s commanding display in the middle at Kingston Park came exactly two weeks to the day since he was recalled from the wilderness to feature in the Eels’ NRL Grand Final defeat to Penrith Panthers.

The 29-year-old showed all his experience to marshal things for an inexperienced and youthful Italy side, winning player of the match in a team display that gives the Azzurri hope they can shock Fiji at the same venue this weekend to further their hopes of getting out of Group B.

Joey Manu

New Zealand full-back Joey Manu left jaws on the floor with a scintillating display in the Kiwis’ 34-12 victory over Lebanon in Warrington.

Michael Maguire’s side were given a stern test by the Cedars but Manu’s magic stole the show, the Sydney Rooster scoring a superb solo effort, leaving a trail of Lebanese defenders in his wake.

Manu had a hand in every single New Zealand try and seized his chance to shine at the back - his NRL career has largely been spent as a centre given the presence of Australia captain James Tedesco.

Maguire has challenged Manu to show he is the world’s best full-back and his charge answered in emphatic style in his opening run out.

READ MORE: Backyard footy inspired Manu for wonder try

Luke Keary

Injury scuppered Luke Keary’s hopes of appearing at the 2017 World Cup but he is already fit and firing for Ireland in this campaign.

The Sydney Roosters half-back was in sterling form in the 48-2 victory over Jamaica, and revealed it was his proudest moment to represent his Irish heritage on the global stage.

Keary won player of the match and delivered a masterclass as Ged Corcoran’s men ran in 10 tries to defeat the Reggae Warriors.

The Rugby League World Cup promises to be the biggest, best and most inclusive event in the sport’s 127-year history with men’s, women’s and wheelchair teams competing in 61 games across 21 venues throughout England. Tickets are available via rlwc2021.com/tickets

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