Wales Men’s head coach, John Kear, has named the 24-player squad for the upcoming Rugby League World Cup.
It is led by captain Elliot Kear, who will emulate Whitchurch High School classmate, Sam Warburton, who captained the Wales rugby union side in a World Cup in both 2011 and 2015. It’s an honour that will remarkably be replicated by another former classmate when Gareth Bale leads out the Welsh football team for their first World Cup in 64 years, this November in Qatar.
Experience comes in the form of Wales’ most capped men’s senior international and record try scorer, Rhys Williams, who will look to add to his 31 appearances and 22 tries during the tournament.
There are two uncapped players in the squad. Caleb Aekins, a try scorer as Leigh Centurions won promotion to Super League on Sunday, is joined by Kyle Evans (Wakefield Trinity) who was part of the squad that travelled to France in June. Evans only made his professional rugby league debut this season having crossed codes from rugby union at the age of 31.
The squad contains three pairs of brothers, including two sets of twins. Ben Evans and Rhys Evans became the first twins to represent Wales in a Rugby League World Cup in 2013, but it will be a first World Cup for both Connor and Curtis Davies. Brothers James Olds and Ollie Olds play their club rugby league in Australia.
Anthony Walker is also included after being ruled out of the 2017 World Cup just days before travelling to Australia, after scans revealed an abnormality in his brain that has been with him since birth and forced him to retire. Having received the all clear and returning to playing the sport in 2020, Walker will be out to add to his tally of nine caps, the last of which was won in the test match against France in June.
Wales will be based in Preston during the tournament, with a warm-up fixture against Lebanon on Saurday (8 October), before playing their first group game against Cook Islands in Leigh on Wednesday 19 October.
Further group games follow against Tonga (Monday 24 October, St. Helens) and Papua New Guinea (Monday 31 October, Doncaster).
The squad in full is:
Caleb Aekins (Leigh Centurions), Bailey Antrobus (York City Knights), Gavin Bennion (Rochdale Hornets), Joe Burke (West Wales Raiders), Chester Butler (Bradford Bulls), Mike Butt (Swinton Lions), Connor Davies (Workington Town), Curtis Davies (Whitehaven), Ben Evans (Bradford Bulls), Kyle Evans (Wakefield Trinity), Rhys Evans (Bradford Bulls), Will Evans (Whitehaven), Dan Fleming (Featherstone Rovers), Matty Fozard (Widnes Vikings), Dalton Grant (London Broncos), Tom Hopkins (Barrow Raiders), Elliot Kear (captain – Bradford Bulls), Rhodri Lloyd (Swinton Lions), James Olds (Valley Diehards), Ollie Olds (Valley Diehards), Josh Ralph (Mounties), Luis Roberts (Leigh Centurions), Anthony Walker (Bradford Bulls), Rhys Williams (Salford Red Devils)