MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 13: John Bateman of Wigan Warriors celebrates victory following the BetFred Super League Grand Final between Warrington Wolves and Wigan Warriors at Old Trafford on October 13, 2018 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

The Rugby League World Cup is on the horizon, and all 16 squads are now named. In the final lead up to the tournament, Zero Tackle will be looking at every team's best 17 from the squads selected.

Starting at the top of Group A and with the tournament hosts, England will be looking to finally break through and win the tournament that has alluded them since the Great Britain split off into four different nations (all of whom are playing at this tournament).

England's best performance has been three trips to the final, including during the 2017 tournament when they fell to Australia in the decider.

Back on home soil though, as they were during a disappointing 2013 tournament when they were knocked out in the semi-finals, the squad has plenty of cause for upward predictions.

Shaun Wane's side has a number of NRL players, and a handful of ex-NRL players, to go with the best the Super League has to offer.

Here are the 17 who will form England's best 17 at the tournament.

Full squad

Sam Tomkins (Catalans Dragons), Andy Ackers (Salford Red Devils), Joe Batchelor (St Helens), John Bateman (Wigan Warriors), Tom Burgess (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Mike Cooper (Wigan Warriors), Herbie Farnworth (Brisbane Broncos), Ryan Hall (Hull KR), Chris Hill (Huddersfield Giants), Morgan Knowles (St Helens), Matty Lees (St Helens), Tommy Makinson (St Helens), Michael McIlorum (Catalans Dragons), Mike McMeeken (Catalans Dragons), Mikolaj Oledzki (Leeds Rhinos), Kai Pearce-Paul (Wigan Warriors), Victor Radley (Sydney Roosters), Marc Sneyd (Salford Red Devils), Luke Thompson (Canterbury Bulldogs), Kallum Watkins (Salford Red Devils), Jack Welsby (St Helens), Elliott Whitehead (Canberra Raiders), George Williams (Warrington Wolves), Dominic Young (Newcastle Knights)

The spine

The first player picked to the English side will be skipper Sam Tomkins. A former New Zealand Warrior, he has returned to prominence as one of the best players in the Super League since the end of his stint in the NRL.

There are no other specialist fullbacks in the squad, although other options to play fullback include Ryan Hall and Herbie Farnworth.

He will be joined by first choice halves Jack Welsby and George Williams. Like Tomkins, Williams has been one of the best players in the Super League with the Warrington Wolves since finishing his stint in the NRL with the Canberra Raiders.

The star halfback will be complemented nicely by Welsby, who has been a key figure in the St Helens three-peat, despite the fact he is only 21 years of age. He made his English debut earlier this season against the Combined Nations side.

The only competition to the duo in the squad is Marc Sneyd, who has bounced between Salford, Castleford, Hull FC and Salford since his Super League debut, playing 284 games in the competition, but never representing England or Great Britain.

The hooker is likely to be Michael McIlorum, who has played five Tests for England, but has over 300 Super League games under his belt since debuting for Wigan in 2007. He made the switch to Catalan Dragons in 2018.

He will be backed up in the squad by Andy Ackers, who currently plays for the Salford Red Devils.


The rest of the backline will be a hard beast to break into for players included in the squad but not part of the long-term English plan.

Ryan Hall and Kallum Watkins are two names who are instantly recognisable to NRL fans, with Hall having spent time with the Sydney Roosters, and Watkins with the Gold Coast Titans.

Hall will line up on the wing, while Watkins will undoubtedly take up residence in the centres within England's best 17.

The fight for the other wing spot comes down to 30-year-old veteran Tommy Makinson, who will be looking to add to his five Tests after a 2018 debut for the nation on the back of strong form for St Helens, where he has played 284 games since his debut in 2011, scoring 169 tries in that time.

The other option is Dominic Young, who was one of the surprise selections within the squad following an impressive season at the struggling Newcastle Knights.

Makinson likely has the inside running, but don't be surprised to see Young play a role in the tournament.

With Jake Wardle - who played for England mid-year - not featuring in the 24-man squad for the home nation, it means Herbie Farnworth, who has been included from the Brisbane Broncos, will be the most likely option to take up the other centre spot.

Forward pack

England's forward pack is shaping as a dominant force ahead of the tournament, with a good mix of experience and youth, and plenty of players with NRL experience.

It could be an all-NRL starting front row, with Thomas Burgess of the South Sydney Rabbitohs, and Luke Thompson of the Canterbury Bulldogs included.

Both have plenty of experience for England, and while Burgess has typically played from the bench for the Rabbitohs at NRL level, him starting seems like a no-brainer heading into the tournament.

Other options to play in the front row include St Helens' Matty Lees, former St George Illawarra Dragon Mike Cooper and Leeds Rhinos' prop Mikolaj Oledzki, completing a powerful front row.

While one of the trio could shift to lock and play in the 13 jumper, that role will likely be reserved for Sydney Roosters' gun Victor Radley, who declared for England, turning down the option of potentially playing State of Origin in the future.

Morgan Knowles is the other option in the squad to play in the 13.

The second row, like the front row, is an all-NRL experienced duo, with Elliott Whitehead and John Bateman the most likely starting options.

While Joe Batchelor and Mike McMeeken provide strong cover within the 24-man side, Shaun Wane must be enticed by the idea of hanging minutes to young gun Kai Pearce-Paul, who has been a revelation in the Super League this year and has NRL clubs incredibly interested.


Taking at the bench will be made up of a utility or hooking option and three forwards, it's almost certain that the number 14 jumper will go to Andy Ackers.

The Red Devils' dummy half, along with Radley at lock, provides strong cover in the number nine jumper, although potentially leaves the backline slightly short should injury strike.

He will be joined on the bench by two out of the three props who missed the boat, with Mike Cooper a certainty to play, and one of Matty Lees or Oledzki making the cut - we have gone with Lees out of the successful St Helens squad.

The final spot in the side likely goes to Mike McMeeken, who loses his starting spot from the last time England played against the Combined Nations, but retains his place in the best 17.

Best 17

1. Sam Tomkins (c)
2. Tommy Makinson
3. Kallum Watkins
4. Herbie Farnworth
5. Ryan Hall
6. Jack Welsby
7. George Williams
8. Thomas Burgess
9. Michael McIlorum
10. Luke Thompson
11. Elliott Whitehead
12. John Bateman
13. Victor Radley
14. Andy Ackers
15. Mike McMeeken
16. Mike Cooper
17. Matty Lees

Key information

Group: A
Coach: Shaun Wane
Captain: Sam Tomkins
Number of World Cups: 15
Best World Cup performance: Runners-up (1975, 1995, 2017)


Sunday, October 16, 5:30am: vs Samoa
Sunday, October 23, 3:00am: vs France
Sunday, October 30, 12:30am: vs Greece