Melbourne Storm fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen

The NRL and Super League seasons may be done and dusted but there is still plenty of rugby league.

The most exciting perhaps, is the World Cup Nines tournament.

Revisiting the concept on a global scale, players from across the world will be on show to both win and earn playing contracts, should they not already have one.

With exciting talent and new talent on the rise, the World Cup Nines is proving to be a competition to watch with bated breath.

With so much talent to choose from, here are our picks for the talents to keep an eye on from each side:

Australia: Ryan Papenhuyzen, potentially a surprise pick as not only a Nines selection but as a player to watch.
However, the nimble Melbourne Storm fullback had a debut season to remember, bamboozling and wrong-footing defenders with quick feet.

The Nines are perfectly suited for his abilities where, in open space, he will be able to find holes, exploit gaps and support the forwards through the middle.

New Zealand: Braden Hamlin-Uele had a breakout year in the NRL for the Cronulla Sharks this season, providing them with punch and starch.

Cronulla Sharks prop Braden Hamlin-Uele

The Kiwis will be hoping for much of the same from the hulking prop, who has shown a good work-rate, a strong motor and a tendency to bulldoze.

With early metres so crucial to gain an ascendancy, a player of Hamlin-Uele’s size is an added bonus for a Kiwi side littered with talent.

Tonga: Fanitesi Niu is a name that we may hear a lot more of, and the kid can play, if you believe Brisbane Broncos fans. 

Brisbane Broncos utility back Fanitesi Niu

A versatile utility back, Niu has all the tools to succeed in the Nines format and at the top level. Pace, agility, strength, he could be a surprise packet as he stakes an NRL claim.

With an impressive tournament among some current top players, Niu’s career trajectory could be set for a big change.

Samoa: Luciano Leilua has taken perhaps a bit longer to hit the consistent level fans expected of him but now that he has? Well, look out. 

St George Illawarra Dragons back-rower Luciano Leilua

A barnstorming back-rower with size and a big engine to boot, he will run at defenders all day and look to create additional chances to attack.

In a Samoan side that perhaps lacks elite halves, his influence on the edges to create chances may be a key for Samoan wins.

England: George Williams is Canberra bound in 2020 and both Canberra Raiders fans and NRL fans will get their first look at him in this tournament. 

Incoming Canberra Raiders half George Williams

An elite half at the English level, Williams’ guile, tenacity and deft kicking, will be valuable attributes both for Canberra and England.

In attacking positions, Williams’ class is expected to shine through and give England as many chances as possible to score.

Wales: Regan Grace, a prodigious talent that has burst onto the scene for St Helens. Scoring tries for fun, his finishing abilities have put the Super League on notice. 

St Helens winger Regan Grace

Those skills will be perfectly suited to the Nines format, where he can use a combination of pace, natural ability and finishing, to capitalise on Welsh chances.

Although many do not give them a chance, it is players like Grace who can put them in winning positions.

France: Jason Baitieri, now an elder statesman of the game, is the leadership you want in your side. 

Catalans Dragons forward Jason Baitieri

His name may sound familiar to Australian fans but it is his time at Catalans Dragons that has seen him excel.

His experience will prove invaluable for a relatively young French side, as they look to cause some upsets.

Lebanon: Reece Robinson will look to use all his experience and nous to help an inexperienced Lebanese side produce results.

Not the side many were expecting for this tournament, off-field dramas have seen no major NRL stars selected.

So it is Robinson, a multiple NRL representative, that will lead the young pups into what will be their toughest challenge yet.

Cook Islands:Brad Takairangi has been around the NRL for a while and now has the chance to produce in the Nines format. 

Parramatta Eels utility Brad Takairangi

With a Cook Islands side that has several players probably unknown to fans, the experience alone will be an honour for these players.

Papua New Guinea: Garry Lo, a prolific try-scorer, looms as a key attacking threat for Papua New Guinea. 

Papua New Guinea winger Garry Lo

No stranger to creating opportunities and scoring, he leads a bevvy of talented Papua New Guinean players on the rise.

Plenty of talent to keep an eye on and plenty of exciting games are just around the corner.

By ricky

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