2021 RLWC Week 1 Teams, Preview and Predictions

Here’s a look at week 1 of the 2021 Rugby League World Cup, with team news, previews and predictions.

Related: RLWC Squads and Fixtures

Group A – England 60 defeated Samoa 6 (St James’ Park, October 15)

Kick-off GMT 14:30, Syd 00:30 Oct 16, NZ 02:30 Oct 16

England: 1. Sam Tomkins, 2. Tommy Makinson, 3. Kallum Watkins, 4. Herbie Farnworth, 6. Jack Welsby, 7. George Williams, 8. Tom Burgess , 9. Micky McIlorum, 10. Luke Thompson, 11. Elliott Whitehead, 13. Victor Radley, 14. Dom Young, 15. Morgan Knowles, 16. Matty Lees, 17. Mike Cooper, 18. Chris Hill, 20. Mike McMeeken, 21. Marc Sneyd, 24. Kai Pearce-Paul.

Samoa: 13. Josh Aloiai, 4. Stephen Crichton, 24. Braden Hamlin-Uele, 20. Chanel Harris-Tavita, 23. Oregon Kaufusi, 16. Spencer Leniu, 9. Danny Levi, 6. Jarome Luai, 14. Tyrone May, 7. Anthony Milford, 8. Josh Papali’i, 10. Junior Paulo, 12. Jaydn Su’a, 1. Joseph Suaali’i, 18. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, 3. Izack Tago, 17. Martin Taupau, 5. Brian To’o, 22. Kelma Tuilagi.

Referee: Ashley Klein

Head-to-Head: Played 3, England 3, Samoa 0

England open the World Cup in Newcastle as they aim to go one better than 2017 and win the tournament on their home soil. Sam Tomkins leads an experienced squad including John Bateman, Ryan Hall, Elliott Whitehead and Victor Radley.

Samoa have two wins from two matches since the last World Cup where they qualified for the quarter-finals where they managed only one draw during the preliminary matches. They are likely to give the home country a fright with a host of NRL experience which includes playmaker Jarome Luai, plus outside backs in Stephen Crichton and Brian To’o.


Matt PritchardAndrew PelechatyShannon MeyerLachlan JeffereyJack Harbidge
Samoa by 6Samoa by 2England by 6England by 6Samoa by 6

Group B – Australia 42 defeated Fiji 8 (Headingley Stadium, October 15)

MATCH REPORT: Australia 42 Fiji 8

Kick-off GMT 19:30, Syd 05:30 Oct 16, NZ 07:30 Oct 16

Australia: 1. James Tedesco, 9. Josh Addo-Carr, 8. Latrell Mitchell, 4. Valentine Holmes, 23. Murray Taulagi, 7. Cameron Munster, 2. Daly Cherry-Evans, 18. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, 3. Ben Hunt, 5. Jake Trbojevic, 17. Angus Crichton, 22. Jeremiah Nanai, 11. Cameron Murray, 20. Harry Grant, 16. Reuben Cotter, 13. Pat Carrigan, 10. Jack Wighton, 12. Matt Burton, 19. Campbell Graham.

Fiji: 1. Sunia Turuva, 2. Mitieli Vulikijapani, 3. Kevin Naiquama, 4. Semi Valemei, 5. Maika Sivo, 6. Sitiveni Moceidreke, 7. Brandon Wakeham, 8. King Vunniyayawa, 9. Api Koroisau, 10. Tui Kamikamica, 11. Viliame Kikau, 12. Siua Wong, 13. Lamar Manuel-Liolevave, 14. Penioni Tagituimua, 15. Jowasa Drodrolagi, 16. Ben Nakubuwai, 17. Taniela Sadrugu, 18. Netane Masima.

Referee: Chris Kendall

Head-to-Head: Played 6, Australia 6, Fiji 0

Australia will go into the game as favourites to beat Fiji in their opening group match in Leeds. In five of six clashes Australia has scored more than 50 points, while Fiji has only managed sixteen points in all games against the World Cup defending champs.

Daly Cherry-Evans has won the halfback jersey ahead of Nathan Cleary in a strong line-up announced by Mal Meninga. Fiji boast grand final players Waqa Blake, Maika Sivo, Api Koroisau and Viliame Kikau in their starting side. Mikaele Ravalawa has been ruled out of the tournament with a hamstring problem and coach Joe Rabele Dakuitoga has been hospitalised, making it a less than smooth start for Fiji’s World Cup campaign.


Matt PritchardAndrew PelechatyShannon MeyerLachlan JeffereyJack Harbidge
Australia by 28Australia by 40Australia by 32Australia by 34Australia by 30

Group B – Italy 28 defeated Scotland 4 (Kingston Park, October 16)

Kick-off GMT 14:30, Syd 00:30 Oct 17, NZ 02:30 Oct 17

Scotland: 11. Euan Aitken, 15. Luke Bain, 8. Logan Bayliss-Brow, 13. James Bell, 7. Ryan Brierley, 4. Keiran Buchanan, 20. Davey Dixon, 24. Dale Ferguson, 19. Calum Gahan, 6. Bailey Hayward, 3. Ben Hellewell, 9. Liam Hood, 12. Kane Linnett, 14. Kyle Schneider, 18. Jack Teanby, 5. Lachlan Walmsley. 

Italy: 1. Luke Polselli, 2. Richard Lepori, 3. Daniel Atkinson, 4. Ethan Natoli, 5. Jake Maizen, 6. Jack Campagnolo, 7. Radean Robinson, 10. Anton Iaria, 9. Dean Parata, 15. Luca Moretti, 11. Ryan King, 12. Brenden Santi, 13. Nathan Brown, 14. Joey Tramontana, 16. Gioele Celerino, 19. Luke Hodge, 20. Jack Colovatti, 18. Kyle Pickering, 17. Ronnie Palumbo.

Referee: Todd Smith (replacing Gerard Sutton under Covid protocols)

Head-to-Head: Played 2, Scotland 1, Italy 0, Drawn 1

Scotland will go in as favourites to down Italy in their opening round clash. They’re undefeated in their last three matches, including a draw against Jamaica and a win against Greece in 2019. This campaign they will be without their most capped international in Danny Brough, who retired from rugby league in 2021 at the age of 38. Euan Aitken, Kane Linnett and Ryan Brierley will carry their nation’s hope.

Italy makes their third appearance at the World Cup having won two and drawn one from six matches. Parramatta’s Grand Final forward Nathan Brown is their key player going into the tournament. One player to watch out for is Jack Campagnolo who currently plays in the NSW Cup for South Sydney having previously made his name in the QLD Cup with the Northern Pride and Wynnum-Manly Seagulls.


Matt PritchardAndrew PelechatyShannon MeyerLachlan JeffereyJack Harbidge
Scotland by 14Scotland by 20Italy by 6Scotland by 16Scotland by 10

Group C – Ireland 48 defeated Jamaica 2 (Headingley Stadium, October 16)

Kick-off GMT 17:00, Syd 03:00 Oct 17, NZ 05:00 Oct 17

Jamaica: 2. Mo Agoro, 15. Jorge Andrade, 22. Chevaughan Bailey, 3. Joe Brown, 1. Ashton Golding, 19. Bradley Ho, 20. Greg Johnson, 1. Ben Jones-Bishop, 17. Aaron Jones-Bishop, 10. Michael Lawrence, 18. Abevia McDonald, 4. Jacob Ogden, 21. Ross Peltier, 7. Kieran Rush, 24. Andrew Simpson, 16. Keenan Tomlinson, 11. AJ Wallace, 6. James Woodburn-Hall, 5. Alex Young.

Ireland: 1. Richie Myler, 3. Ed Chamberlain, 4. Toby King, 5. Innes Senior, 6. Luke Keary, 7. Joe Keyes, 8. Liam Byrne, 9. Josh Cook, 10. Jaimin Jolliffe, 11. James Bentley, 12. Frankie Halton, 13. George King, 14. James McDonnell, 15. Harry Rushton, 16. Brendan O’Hagan, 17. Dan Norman, 20. Louis Senior, 21. Ronan Michael, 22. James Hasson.

Referee: Ben Casty

Head-to-Head: Played 1, Jamaica 1, Ireland 0

Jamaica will appear in their first World Cup competition after their win over the United States 26-24 back in June 2019. Their last international appearance was in October 2021 when they drew with Scotland 30-all. Ashton Golding is their highest profile player, playing in Huddersfield’s Challenge Cup final loss to Wigan earlier this year. The player to watch though will be Ben Jones-Bishop having scored 129 tries in 217 Super League appearances.

Ireland will boast NRL half Luke Keary who will debut after playing twice for the Kangaroos in 2018. While Jones-Bishop might be the player to watch for Jamaica, Leeds fullback Richie Myler provides the Irish with their best try scoring prowess, having scored 137 in 287 appearances.

This matches up to be one of the more competitive fixtures of the opening round.


Matt PritchardAndrew PelechatyShannon MeyerLachlan JeffereyJack Harbidge
Ireland by 28Ireland by 12Jamaica by 2Ireland by 50Ireland by 32

Group C – New Zealand 34 defeated Lebanon 12 (Halliwell Jones Stadium, October 16)

Match Report: New Zealand 34 Lebanon 12

Kick-off GMT 19:30, Syd 05:30 Oct 17, NZ 07:30 Oct 17

New Zealand: 1. Joseph Manu, 2. Ronaldo Mulitalo, 21. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, 4. Peta Hiku, 5. Jordan Rapana, 6. Dylan Brown, 7. Jahrome Hughes, 8. Jesse Bromwich, 9. Brandon Smith, 10. James Fisher-Harris, 11. Isaiah Papali’I, 12. Kenny Bromwich, 13. Joseph Tapine, 14. Kieran Foran, 15. Moses Leota, 16. Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 17. Briton Nikora, 19. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, 3. Marata Niukore.

Lebanon: 17. Jalal Bazzaz, 6. Adam Doueihi, 10. Hanna El-Nachar, 11. Elie El-Zakhem, 8. Kayne Kalache, 15. Andrew Kazzi, 1. Jacob Kiraz, 14. Anthony Layoun, 2. Josh Mansour, 21. Josh Maree, 5. Abbas Miski, 4. Brandon Morkos, 7. Mitch Moses, 19. Khalil Rahme, 20. Jaxson Rahme, 16. Reece Robinson, 13. James Roumanos, 9. Mikey Tannous, 12. Charbel Tasipale.

Referee: Grant Atkins

Head-to-Head: Played 1, New Zealand 1, Lebanon 0

Current number one ranked international side New Zealand head into their opening game with Lebanon fielding a strong side. While the spotlight is on Australia and Tonga to win the tournament, the Kiwis can’t be discounted with strike power in Joseph Manu, Dylan Brown and Jahrome Hughes in the halves, and a strong forward pack.

The problem for Lebanon will be whether their forward pack can generate any space to allow Adam Doueihi and Mitch Moses play make. 35 year-old Travis Robinson comes out of retirement to represent the Cedars in the tournament.

Expect the Kiwis to win well.


Matt PritchardAndrew PelechatyShannon MeyerLachlan JeffereyJack Harbidge
New Zealand by 36New Zealand by 50New Zealand by 16New Zealand by 54New Zealand by 38

Group A – France 34 defeated Greece 12 (Doncaster, October 17)

Kick-off GMT 19:30, Syd 05:30 Oct 18, NZ 07:30 Oct 18

France: 1. Morgan Escare, 2. Arthur Romano, 3. Samisoni Langi, 4. Matthieu Laguerre, 5. Fouad Yaha, 6. Arthur Mourgue, 7. Tony Gigot, 8. Jordan Dezaria, 9. Alrix Da Costa, 10. Lambert Belmas, 11. Benjamin Jullien, 12. Paul Séguier, 13. Benjamin Garcia, 14. Eloi Pélissier, 15. Justin Sangaré, 17. Mickael Goudemand, 19. Corentin Le Cam, 21. Maxime Puech, 23. Cesar Rougé.

Greece: 1. Chaise Robinson, 2. Siteni Taukamo, 3. Terry Constantinou, 4. Nick Mougios, 5. John Mitsias, 6. Lachlan Ilias, 7. Jordan Meads, 8. Robert Tuliatu, 9. Peter Mamouzelos, 10. Stefanos Bastas, 11. Mitchell Zampetides, 12. Nick Flocas, 13. Billy Magoulias, 14. Jake Kambos, 15. Myles Gal, 16. Sebastian Sell, 17. Theodoros Nianiakas, 19. Liam Sue-Tin, 18. Aris Dardamanis.

Referee: Adam Gee

No previous meetings

France have named a strong side, full of Super League players from Catalans and relegated club Toulouse. The player to watch is winger Fouad Yaha who scored 20 tries for the Dragons in this season. The French have won four of their last five matches, including 34-10 over Wales in June.

Greece are newcomers to the World Cup having won the European Championship C Final in 2018 and thrashing Serbia in the European Qualifiers B tournament in 2019. South Sydney duo in hooker Peter Mamouzelos and halfback Lachlan Ilias are familiar names in their squad. Former Warrington Wolves and Cronulla Sharks forward Billy Magoulias is also selected in their side.

France’s biggest winning margin (50 points vs South Africa in 2000) may be under threat in this complete mismatch.


Matt PritchardAndrew PelechatyShannon MeyerLachlan JeffereyJack Harbidge
France by 20France by 50France by 6France by 24France by 28

Group D – Tonga Vs Papua New Guinea (Totally Wicked Stadium, October 18)

Kick-off GMT 19:30, Syd 05:30 Oct 19, NZ 07:30 Oct 19

Tonga: 2. Daniel Tupou, 3. Siosifa Talakai, 4. Will Penisini, 5. Sione Katoa, 6. Talatau Amone, 7. Tui Lolohea, 8. Addin Fonua-Blake, 9. Siosiua Taukeiaho, 11. Felise Kaufusi, 12. Keaon Koloamatangi, 14. Soni Luke, 15. Haumole Olakau’atu, 16. Tevita Tatola, 17. Moeaki Fotuaika, 18. David Fifita, 19. Mosese Suli, 20. Tolutau Koula, 21. Ben Murdoch-Masila, 24. Isaiya Katoa. 

Papua New Guinea: 8. Wellington Albert, 13. Jacob Alick, 18. Keven Apo, 23. Watson Boas, 5. Xavier Coates, 9. Edwin Ipape, 1. Alex Johnston, 7. Lachlan Lam, 6. Kyle Laybutt, 3. Nene MacDonald, 12. Rhyse Martin, 10. Sylvester Namo, 4. Justin Olam, 11. Nixon Putt, 15. Daniel Russell, 20. Rodrick Tai, 21. Sherwin Tanabi, 17. Emmanuel Waine, 16. McKenzie Yei.

Referee: Liam Moore

Head-to-Head: Played 7, Papua New Guinea 6, Tonga 0, Drawn 1

This is a much-anticipated clash between the Pacific heavyweight Tonga and rugby league mad nation Papua New Guinea.

Despite the Tongan outfit losing three of their last internationals, their Invitational XIII caused a boilover in 2019 defeating the Kangaroos 16-12. They will go in as favourites in search of their first victory over Papua New Guinea. Jason Taumalolo will be missing from their side after being suspended in the NRL prelim final loss to the Eels.

Papua New Guinea will be boasted by the speed and try scoring ability of their two wingers: Xavier Coates, and Alex Johnston. With 166 tries in the NRL, Johnston has only one try to his name in three matches for the Kumuls but should add to his tally during the tournament. Coates scored 16 tries in 17 games for the Storm this season and is travelling on a similar path to his wing partner.

Tonga should win, but don’t discount the Kumuls.


Matt PritchardAndrew PelechatyShannon MeyerLachlan JeffereyJack Harbidge
Tonga by 14Tonga by 30Tonga by 12Tonga by 12Tonga by 22

Group D – Wales Vs Cook Islands (Leigh Sports Village Stadium, October 19)

Kick-off GMT 19:30, Syd 05:30 Oct 20, NZ 07:30 Oct 20

Wales: 1. Caleb Aekins, 2. Rhys Williams, 4. Will Evans, 5. Dalton Grant, 6. Elliot Kear, 7. Josh Ralph, 8. Anthony Walker, 9. Matty Fozard, 10. Dan Fleming, 11. Rhodri Lloyd, 12. Chester Butler, 13. Ben Evans, 14. Ollie Olds, 15. Curtis Davies, 16. Joe Burke, 17. Bailey Antrobus, 18. Connor Davies, 19. Mike Butt, 21. Tom Hopkins.

Cook Islands: 14. Tevin Arona, 7. Johnathon Ford, 3. Anthony Gelling, 1. Kayal Iro, 8. Makahesi Makatoa, 5. Steven Marsters, 4. Esan Marsters, 20. Davvy Moale, 10. Tepai Moeroa, 17. Rua Ngatikaura, 19. Pride Petterson-Robati, 11. Dominique Peyroux, 12. Brendan Piakura, 23. Reuben Porter, 16. Reubenn Rennie, 6. Brad Takairangi, 9. Aaron Teroi, 13. Zane Tetevano, 2. Paul Ulberg.

Referee: Robert Hicks

Head-to-Head: Played 2, Wales 1, Cook Islands 1

Round 1 of the World Cup concludes with Wales and the Cook Islands facing off at Leigh Sports Village.

The Welsh have a host of Championship players in their side with notable inclusions being former NRL fullback Caleb Aekins and Salford’s Rhys Williams. Playmaker Josh Ralph plays for Mounties in the Knock On Effect NSW Cup after spending time at the Brisbane Tigers in the HostPlus QLD Cup.

There’s plenty of experience in the Cook Islands side with Anthony Gelling, Esan Masters, Tepai Moeroa and Dom Peyroux in their line-up. The player to watch is Kayal Iro who made his debut with the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks this year and scored 14 tries for their feeder club, Newtown Jets in this year’s NSW Cup competition.

Wales will be looking for their first win at the World Cup since knocking Papua New Guinea out in the quarter-finals on November 12, 2000. The Cook Islands were trounced by Samoa 42-12 in their last outing in June at Campbelltown Stadium.


Matt PritchardAndrew PelechatyShannon MeyerLachlan JeffereyJack Harbidge
Wales by 10Cook Islands by 40Cook Islands by 18Cook Islands by 20Cook Islands by 12

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