2026 Rugby League World Cup: England’s Potential Starters Revealed

Preparing for the 2026 Rugby League World Cup: 13 Potential England Starters to Watch

As the mid-season international fixture between England and France approaches, planning is already underway for the 2026 Rugby League World Cup. Several established Super League stars will be vying for a spot in Shaun Wane’s England squad, with a number of veteran players nearing the end of their international careers, offering opportunities for young hopefuls to make their mark.

Wane will be hoping his key players can maintain their form and fitness leading up to the tournament, with the clock ticking down to the highly anticipated event. Let’s take a look at 13 potential starters who could feature for England when the 2026 World Cup gets underway.

Jack Welsby (St Helens)

At just 23 years old, the versatile Jack Welsby is already a regular in the England team and poised to be a mainstay for years to come. The Saints star made a memorable try-scoring debut during the 2021 World Cup and has since added numerous domestic trophies to his cabinet, including the 2020 Grand Final, 2021 Challenge Cup, and 2021/2022 Grand Finals. With 59 tries in 109 appearances for St Helens, Welsby is a shoo-in to start at full-back in 2026.

Dom Young (Newcastle Knights)

The young winger burst onto the international scene during England’s 2021 World Cup opener against Samoa, scoring two tries in a 60-6 victory. After impressing in the NRL with the Sydney Roosters and Newcastle Knights, where he has scored 51 tries in 60 appearances, the 2001-born Dom Young is almost certain to feature on the wing for England in 2026.

Jake Wardle (Wigan Warriors)

The Huddersfield Giants academy product has established himself as a regular at the Wigan Warriors, winning the 2023 Grand Final and the 2024 World Club Challenge. Wardle, who made his England debut in 2022, is expected to be a fixture in the national team’s backline, providing experience and quality at the age of 25.

Toby King (Warrington Wolves)

Warrington’s resurgence under Sam Burgess has been driven in part by the impressive Toby King, who has scored 61 tries in 166 Super League appearances. The 25-year-old centre will face stiff competition, but his form and ability make him a strong contender for an England spot in 2026.

Tom Johnstone (Wakefield Trinity)

The flying winger has been a prolific try-scorer in Super League, and with the experienced Tommy Makinson nearing the end of his international career, the 28-year-old Johnstone should establish himself as a regular for England in 2026, having been unlucky not to earn more caps earlier in his career.

George Williams (C, Warrington Wolves)

England’s best half-back and captain, the 31-year-old Williams will lead the side in 2026 if he can maintain his fitness and form. With 82 tries in 213 Super League appearances, the Warrington star will be a key figure in England’s quest for glory.

Harry Smith (Wigan Warriors)

At just 24 years old, Smith has already achieved a great deal, winning the Super League Grand Final, Challenge Cup, and World Club Challenge. The consistent and organized half-back will complement the mercurial talents of Williams in England’s halves.

Matty Lees (St Helens)

The 26-year-old St Helens prop has already won multiple trophies domestically and represented England Knights before making his senior debut in 2022. With 126 Super League appearances under his belt, Lees is entering his prime and should be a crucial part of England’s World Cup squad.

Other young talents who will be hoping to force their way into Shaun Wane’s plans for the 2026 Rugby League World Cup include Brad O’Neill, Tyler Dupree, Joe Batchelor, Matty Nicholson, and Victor Radley.

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