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World Cup - Rugby League: Five key players for England

As the delayed 2021 World Cup edges closer, here's a look at five players who could be key to England's success at the major tournament on home soil.

With St Helens bagging their fourth consecutive Grand Final title this season, it's no surprise to see three Saints stars make the cut for this list of influential England players.

What

2021 Rugby League World Cup

Where

England

When

15th October - 19th November 2022

How to watch

BBC 1 and BBC 2

Odds

Outright Winner - Australia 3/10, England 6/1, New Zealand 13/2, Tonga 11/1, Samoa 28/1

Jonny Lomax - St Helens

Along with teammate James Roby, Jonny Lomax has been a talisman for St Helens in their domination of the Super League over the last four seasons.

While England head coach Shaun Wane might well be wishing Roby had not retired from international duty ahead of the major tournament, he can still call upon the experience of Lomax.

A leader both on and off the field, the 32-year-old utility back should be a key figure for England at the World Cup, as long as he can continue managing his ongoing bicep injury problem.

Lomax, who has also played for Great Britain on four occasions, knows what it's like to compete on the World Cup stage and will be a player for the younger England stars to look up to this autumn.

Tommy Makinson - St Helens

After another impressive season for the champions, winger Tommy Makinson is expected to get the chance for another crack at winning the World Cup.

With 22 tries in Super League this season, Makinson was the highest try-scoring Englishman in the competition, with only Bevan French and Ken Sio finishing ahead of him in the standings.

Makinson is one of the best finishers in the game, while he also does plenty of work elsewhere on the field, having made 2859 metres this season.

At the age of 30, this could possibly be Makinson's last chance to win a World Cup and once again he will be an important figure in the England squad.

Matty Lees - St Helens

Fresh off the back of scoring the fastest try in Grand Final history, Matty Lees will be looking to take his positive form for Saints into the World Cup.

The 24-year-old scored in just the second minute of the Grand Final against Leeds Rhinos at Old Trafford, as Saints went on to record a 24-12 victory.

Lees has already amassed over 100 appearances for St Helens and while he is still a newcomer in the international game, it might well be a big World Cup for the youngster.

There will be plenty more experienced props in the squad to learn from but the explosive Lees will bring something different to the England squad for the major tournament.

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Ash Handley - Leeds Rhinos

A key figure in turning Leeds from relegation candidates to Grand Final runners-up, Ash Handley enjoyed another impressive season for the Rhinos.

While the England winger will be disappointed with how the final played out at Old Trafford, he and the rest of the Rhinos squad can hold their heads up high for how they managed to even reach the showpiece event of the season.

Handley's figures in the Super League campaign speak for themselves as he topped the charts for both metres made (3646m) and most carries (437) through the season.

Only 26-years-old, Handley has emerged as a leader in the Rhinos squad amongst more experienced players and he will be able to bring that, and his blistering pace, to England for the World Cup.

John Bateman - Wigan Warriors

While this is likely to be a somewhat new-looking England squad under Wane for the World Cup, the hosts will need to draw on experience.

Wane will know John Bateman from their time at Wigan Warriors together and the centre is likely to play a big role for England this autumn.

The 28-year-old's season ended in disappointment with Wigan after a red card in the playoff semi-final defeat at the hands of Leeds at the DW Stadium.

However the former Bradford Bulls star, who made his international debut back in 2015, has bounced back from disappointments before and should be an important figure in the England squad.

Wane knows exactly how to get the best out of Bateman and he can play a big role as England, who are 9/1 to win the World Cup, take on the likes of Samoa, France and Greece in the group stages.

The hosts kick-start the tournament on 15th October when they welcome Samoa to St James' Park in Newcastle, before facing France in Bolton and Greece in Sheffield.

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