Despite a frankly disastrous tour which ended with a humiliating defeat to Papua New Guinea, British rugby league is still producing talent over that side of the pond. Perhaps they could learn a thing or two from the way we operate on this side of the world, but they would argue that despite their obvious shortcomings at the moment, they’re still progressing and have talent coming through the ranks.
After their recent tour which caused huge shock amongst the British fans and media alike, plenty of scrutiny has been levelled at the team. Whether they’re up to it in terms of ability has been up for discussion, but also alongside their attitude and whether the players are onboard with their Aussie coach Wayne Bennett. Bennett certainly can’t shoulder all of the blame, as the players – simply put – shouldn’t be losing some of the games they did.
Perhaps Great Britain were distracted on tour? Maybe they simply underestimated their opponents? Could morale have been low, with players staying in their rooms, playing Fortnite or various casino games to win real money, and simply not integrating with the rest of the team? Ultimately, who knows, but questions have certainly been asked since their arrival back home.
Most rugby fans around the world would expect Great Britain to learn from their evident failure and essentially rebuild for the future. So, with that in mind, we thought we’d highlight some of the rising stars in the English game who could, eventually, end up plying their trade in the southern hemisphere and still have the potential to succeed in the game despite Great Britain’s issues.
Matty Lees – St Helens
One of the England Knights’ star men, Matty Lees has really matured into a fine rugby player and a regular first team starter for whoever he turns out for. The prop or second-row forward was shortlisted by the England Performance Unit for Super League’s Young Player of the Year award in 2019 and subsequently won the prize after some fantastic, dominant displays. The award capped off a fine year for St Helens, with Lees at the forefront of all their excellent work. Lees missed out on Great Britain’s horrific tour after he perforated his bowel, and there’s no doubting that the Brits missed him. Definitely one to keep an eye on, when he’s back fit.
Jake Trueman – Castleford Tigers
Jake Trueman has certainly been pulling up trees since breaking into the Castleford Tigers’ side in 2018. Trueman can play as a scrum-half, stand-off or hooker and tends to be one of the standout players in either role, with his performances earning him a call-up to the England Elite Performance Squad in recent times. At the age of 20, Trueman still has a lot to learn but his potential is clear to see.
Jack Walker – Leeds Rhinos
Another 20 year-old with bags of ability, Jack Walker is easily one of Leeds Rhinos’ most important players. The star-full back recently signed a new five-year deal with the club, highlighting just how much the Yorkshire outfit rate him. Another England Knights international, Walker is only going to get better and better the more he plays.
Morgan Smithies – Wigan Warriors
Morgan Smithies is a second-row forward who you’d love to have in your side. He played a leading role for the England Academy versus Australia at the end of 2018 and has since gone on to establish himself as a regular for the Wigan Warriors, all at the tender age of just 19. Smithies is, without a doubt, one of the brightest young talents around.