Breakout players at the Rugby League World Cup

Rugby League World Cup

Whether it be New Zealand’s Joseph Manu, Australia’s Nathan Cleary or Tonga’s Jason Taumalolo, this year’s Rugby League World Cup isn’t short on world-class talent. While the aforementioned three have fulfilled expectations and been exceptional through the group stages of the tournament – it’s the emergence of some of the game’s younger and lesser-known players who have stolen the show. 

With that in mind, read on as we take a look at the breakout players at the 2022 Rugby League World Cup thus far.

Edwin Ipape

Papua New Guinea’s Edwin Ipape has been a revelation at this World Cup. The Leigh Leopards (formerly Leigh Centurions) star has been the catalyst for the Kumuls’ success on both sides of the ball. Whether it is his bruising defence in the middle or his reliable service out of dummy-half, the 23-year-old’s form has garnered the attention of a number of prominent National Rugby League and English Super League clubs. 

With five try assists, seven line break assists, nine tackle breaks and a tackle efficiency of nearly 90% – Ipape’s production through three games speaks for itself. With Leigh securing promotion for the 2023 Super League season – don’t be surprised if the Leopards make a push for a playoff spot with Ipape as their hooker.

Jack Welsby

While St Helens’ Jack Welsby is far from an unknown player in English rugby league circles – many fans and pundits of the sport were eager to see how he would compare to some of the best players that heavyweights Australia, New Zealand, Samoa and Tonga have to offer. If there were any doubts about his ability pre-tournament, he has certainly put those to bed since. The two-time Man of Steel winner has been playing five-eighth throughout the tournament – despite playing at fullback for The Saints at club level. He has excelled in the new role – scoring once, assisting on four tries and contributing a further six line break assists.

The 21-year-old’s performance against Samoa was particularly impressive. Heading into that fixture as underdogs, Welsby and his teammates reminded their opposition that there is still plenty of talented rugby league players who hail from the northern hemisphere. Thrashing the Pacific Island nation 60-6, Welsby’s try and three try assists sent a clear message that he has well and truly arrived on the world stage.

Welsby’s sublime play has helped England shorten in the rugby league odds to win it all, with them currently sitting as third favourites at 6/1.

Campbell Graham

When you look at Australia’s squad at this year’s World Cup – their talent is undeniable. While the Kangaroos have made light work of their opposition, it’s the play of Campbell Graham that would have their coach Mal Meninga most pleased. The South Sydney Rabbitohs club player has been a standout for the Aussies, registering eye-popping numbers that include five tries, five line breaks and an average of 157 run metres through three games. 

If the rangy winger can maintain similar form for the remainder of the tournament – the Kangaroos are a great chance of winning their third consecutive Rugby League World Cup title.

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