With anticipation for the 2021 World Cup heightening through last week’s training base announcements 500 days from the start of the tournament, there are a host of key figures outside Super League relishing next year’s event. Here are six players and coaches with much to look forward to on the World Cup front.
Stuart Littler (Swinton Lions, Ireland)
Stuart Littler’s proud association with Ireland will cover 17 years by the time the World Cup kicks off next year.
Littler featured 19 times for the Wolfhounds during his playing career, including in the 2008 and 2013 World Cups.
Now, having succeeded Mark Aston, he gets the chance to coach the Irish on the sport’s biggest stage.
Littler’s stock has continued to rise during his time in charge of Swinton Lions, and he made a strong start to life as Ireland boss by qualifying impressively for next year’s tournament.
Their prospects could depend on which players are available, although we can expect a team that is easy on the eye with the ball.
Joel Farrell (Sheffield Eagles, Jamaica)
The 26-year-old backrower (pictured) is one of a host of Jamaican players that have spent their careers outside the top flight, but who will relish the step up to the bigger stage.
Farrell has long been one of the most talented backrowers in the Championship from his time at Dewsbury, Batley and now the Eagles.
His move onto the international scene saw him score a try in the crucial 16-10 qualifying win in America, and he also started against England Knights at Headingley last year.
Now he will be hoping to fulfil a fairytale journey for the Jamaicans by playing in next year’s main competition.
John Kear (Bradford Bulls, Wales)
The veteran coach’s reaction to his Wales side being drawn in the mandatory “group of death” with Tonga, Papua New Guinea and the Cook Islands says everything about his attitude to the sport.
“I’m really pleased with who we’ve been drawn with,” Kear said when the draw was made.
“I know it’s all the southern hemisphere teams, and I know they base their games very much on the physicality of Rugby League.
“But they’ve got the logistics of travelling all the way here, and we’ve got a little walk over the Welsh border.
“We feel it gives us a great chance of getting our first win in the World Cup since 2000 and we feel we may well pick up a couple that would qualify us for the quarters.”
Who would back against the master underdog doing just that?
David Scott (Batley Bulldogs, Scotland)
It was all change for Scotland last year on a number of fronts, but one constant remained.
While the coaching staff switched from Chris Chester and John Duffy to Nathan Graham, Stirling-born Dave Scott was again a key member of the side.
Scott scored a hat-trick in the 86-0 romp over Serbia and touched down in the crucial second win over Greece, showing his versatility by playing both matches at centre after having played most of his career as a winger or fullback.
Still only 26, despite having debuted for the Bravehearts in 2011, he has been a member of the last two Scottish World Cup squads, featuring twice in 2013, including a quarter-final with New Zealand, but not playing three years ago.
Wartovo Puara Jr (Barrow Raiders, Papua New Guinea)
Barrow’s non-stop PNG hooker will be eager for another shot at the World Cup after starting this year as a key figure in Paul Crarey’s Barrow side in his second season in this country.
Puara was a member of the 2017 Kumuls squad, but was restricted to just one appearance in the comfortable opening win against Wales.
It was last year that his international career hit a new peak as part of the PNG side that stunned Great Britain in Port Moresby, and he looks well placed to retain his spot in the team for next year.
Bastien Ader (Toulouse Olympique, France)
Few French players enjoyed a better 2017 World Cup than the Toulouse centre.
In what was a disappointing campaign for the Tricolores, Ader played in all three matches, scoring twice in the opening defeat to Lebanon in Canberra.
The tournament also saw him play opposite Josh Dugan and John Bateman, which was an experience that should stand him in good stead as France aim for a much improved competition next year.