Great Britain players to watch out for during 2019 Tour

St Helens powerhouse prop Luke Thompson

Luke Thompson

A player who just seems to be getting better and better with each game that passes.

It was undoubtedly a year to remember for Thompson who over the last two to three seasons has developed into one of the best prop forwards in Super League if not the best.

The Saints front rower has formed a powerhouse tandem alongside teammate Alex Walmsley and an epic year saw him become the first prop to claim the Harry Sunderland Trophy for his 72 minute workhorse display in the Super League Grand Final since Andy Platt in 1992. 

The 24-year-old is now set to wear the GB jersey for the first time this coming Saturday after earning four caps already for England.

He will look to replicate his domestic form onto the international stage with his extensive work rate and hard running tendencies that can make him an integral force in a GB forward pack that is already missing Sam Burgess.

As the Kiwis will have the likes Jared Waerea Hargeaves within their front row, Thompson’s presence becomes all the more vital and his matching up with JWH will certainly be a major battle to take note of throughout the series.


John Bateman

Well what more can you say about this man? The 25-year-old certainly made his presence felt over the course of his first year in the NRL.

He solidified his status as one of the best back rowers in the game with his outstanding offensive and defensive influence for Canberra.

Alongside the likes of Josh Hodgson and Elliot Whitehead, the second rower was a pivotal factor in the Raiders run to the NRL Grand Final.

Canberra Raiders back-rower John Bateman

He consistently racked up the tackles and metres while proving to be an unstoppable force on numerous occasions in the green machine’s much improved pack. 

After playing the 2017 Rugby World Cup for England in an experimental centre role, it looks as if Bateman will now be back in his more suited position of the back row for Great Britain.

If the same ferociousness, explosiveness and work rate is still there after his impressive first stint in the NRL, then he has all the tools to lead Britain’s commanding force in a back row that contains Elliott Whitehead and international debutantes Josh Jones, Jack Hughes and Joe Philbin.


 Oliver Gildart

The 22-year-old’s star just continues to rise and he is another player who has cemented himself as one of the best at the centre position in Super League.

The Wigan man has been a catalyst in attack making the most metres by a Warriors players with 3,375 over the course of 2019 season and a figure that also sees him placed within the  top five in the league. 

Wigan Warriors centre Oliver Gildart

There seems to be plenty of faith in Gildart who is one of only two recognised centres in the GB squad so expect to see plenty more of the Wigan flyer as the tour goes on. 

If his GB debut is anything like his England debut, then we could be in for a treat.

The likes of Tonga and New Zealand cannot afford to give the Wigan ace any space to work with as he consistently looks to get forward and can be dangerous on the break.


Jonny Lomax

It is fair to say there has not been a more consistent player in Super League over the last two seasons.

The 2019 Albert Goldthorpe Medal winner’s versatility and ability to find gaps make him one of the biggest threats in the GB squad.

Although he will come off the bench in the game against Tonga on Saturday, the 29-year-old remains a key player to watch out for over the course of the tour with his ability to do it all the offensive front whether it be to create or score.

St Helens utility Jonny Lomax

Throughout a highly dominant season for the Red Vee, Lomax put together 16 tries and 21 assists in a Super League title winning effort.

He is now fighting amongst a position that already holds plenty of depth in the GB side with Jake Trueman and Jackson Hastings all viable options at stand off.

However, with his ability to play in a variety of different positions amongst the backline, expect the Saints star to see plenty of time out on the field and be a key man when looking to open up the defence.


Zak Hardaker

The last time we saw Hardaker among the international stage, it did not exactly end in the best of circumstances after personal reasons led to him being withdrawn from England’s 2013 Rugby League World Cup squad.

However, even though many will remain sceptical because of his past, it seems to be a quest for redemption Hardaker who starred for Wigan this season.

Wigan Warriors utility back Zak Hardaker

It was his goal kicking and strong ball carrying that were huge factor throughout.

The 2015 Man of Steel winner will start at centre instead of fullback on Saturday and although it may not be his most favoured position, Hardaker still has the adaptability to fit right and unleash his attacking traits down the flank.


Josh Hodgson

If you were to look at players who made the biggest difference in Canberra’s journey to the NRL Grand Final this year, then you could probably look no further than Hodgson at the hooker position.

Now, yes, Bateman was a hugely influential player in the back row but when it comes to keeping the offence ticking and making plays on the defensive side of the ball, there were fewer better than the 29-year-old.

Canberra Raiders hooker Josh Hodgson

The England and soon to be GB international plays with all the confidence and creativity of a halfback, leading the way in try assists for Ricky Stuart’s men while establishing himself defensively with the most tackles by a Raiders player and the most one on one ball strips in the entire league.


 

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