After six weeks of stand-out performances for England in the World Cup, the veteran prop James Graham has been named in the World XIII for the ninth time, surpassing Martin Offiah’s record of eight appearances for a British player.
The 32-year-old first appeared in the mythical side in 2008 and has only missed out on selection in one subsequent year.
The World XIII, now in its 40th year, is revealed in the current issue of Rugby League World Magazine (pictured, on sale now) which also includes the annual World Ratings, featuring the top five players in each position.
Graham is joined in the World XIII by a couple of England teammates, a Fijian, a Tongan and eight of the Australian side which denied him a World Cup winner’s medal. On the back of their abysmal World Cup, there are no New Zealand players for the first time since 2011. Three-quarters Jermaine McGillvary and Kallum Watkins are the only Super League players to be chosen, having played so well on England’s right-hand side. They each make the XIII for the second time, having both debuted in 2015.
This year 12 Rugby League writers, split evenly between the two Hemispheres, were asked to nominate five players for each of the nine positions on the field. The top player in each category was awarded five points, the second four, the third three, the fourth two and the last player was given one point. Both domestic and representative performances were taken into account, with the individual voter choosing how much emphasis to place upon each.
Not even Graham, meanwhile, can touch the incredible record of the Australian captain and Golden Boot winner Cameron Smith, who has now been voted into the side for the twelfth year in a row, since his 2006 debut.
Smith is one of two players to score maximum of 60 points, along with the Tongan powerhouse Jason Taumalolo, with all 12 voters rating the pair top hooker and top loose forward respectively.
Four players make their debut in this year’s team – the Australian trio of Will Chambers, Michael Morgan and Aaron Woods, along with Suliasi Vunivalu of Fiji, who reached their third World Cup semi-final in a row.
Australia’s fullback Billy Slater takes his place in the side for the first time since 2013 for his seventh appearance and is joined by his teammate at club, state and Test level, Cooper Cronk, who makes his fourth World XIII appearance. The back row remains the same as last year with Australian second-rowers Boyd Cordner and Matt Gillett joining Taumalolo.
Although Taumalolo retains his place in the side, his most recent selection is the first time a Tonga international has been included as, last year, he was playing for New Zealand before switching amid great controversy. Vunivalu, however, isn’t the first Fijian to make a World XIII, with fellow winger Semi Radradra having made the side two years ago, along with the Samoa stand-off, Anthony Milford. Prior to that, you have to go back to Keiron Cunningham of Wales in 2000 and Papua New Guinea’s Adrian Lam in 1995 for tier-two representation
2017 RUGBY LEAGUE WORLD XIII
1 Billy Slater (Australia)
2 Jermaine McGillvary (England)
3 Will Chambers (Australia)
4 Kallum Watkins (England)
5 Suliasi Vunivalu (Fiji)
6 Michael Morgan (Australia)
7 Cooper Cronk (Australia)
8 James Graham (England)
9 Cameron Smith (Australia)
10 Aaron Woods (Australia)
11 Boyd Cordner (Australia)
12 Matt Gillett (Australia)
13 Jason Taumalolo (Tonga)
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