The 2021 Rugby League World Cup delivered plenty of highlights across the men’s, women’s and wheelchair tournaments – and we’ve picked out the top 10.
Greece’s World Cup debut
What a moment this was.
Rugby league was banned in Greece this time last year. And just months down the line, they made history by playing at their first-ever Rugby League World Cup.
The Greeks lost all three of their group games, which was expected, but this year’s tournament was about much more than winning for them.
Coach Steve Georgallis included eight players from the Greek domestic competition in his squad, with players representing the likes of Aris Eagles, Attica Rhinos and Rhodes Knights.
They can now go back to Greece and genuinely develop rugby league in the country, which they weren’t allowed to do previously. A truly remarkable story.
Another nation who made their debut at the World Cup was Brazil – in the women’s tournament.
The Amazonas are a refreshing, success story of international rugby league. Every player in their squad was born in Brazil, and they’ll be much better off for their debut World Cup.
Brazil had a samba band that supported them at the World Cup opener against England in front of an 8,000-strong crowd at Headingley – how good!
And they brought the good vibes off the pitch, too, showing us their dance moves at every chance.
Jamaica’s first-ever World Cup try
Ben Jones-Bishop made history by scoring Jamaica’s first-ever try at a World Cup. And not only that, the 34-year-old did it against the number #1 ranked team in the world in New Zealand.
The Sheffield Eagles man also celebrated his 300th career appearance during the fixture at the MKM Stadium in Hull.
Jamaica were 68-0 down at the time, but that didn’t stop the celebrations as the full-back collected a kick to cross and score in the 74th minute.
The rise of Samoa
Another one for the history books as Samoa became the first-ever tier two side to make a World Cup final during the delayed 2021 tournament.
Matt Parish’s side couldn’t have opened their campaign any worse – losing 60-6 to England at Newcastle to the shock of many.
However, they went on to defeat France and Greece in the group stages before knocking out Tonga and England to reach the final against Australia.
The Noqu Masu
Fiji’s performance of the moving Noqu Masu was another highlight of the tournament, with 30,857 fans watching the hymn live across four fixtures and millions more viewing on from the edge of their seats at home.
Ahead of the tournament, forward Tui Kamikamica found it difficult to put into words just how special the Fijian hymn is and the emotions were there for all to see during the performances of it.
Siva Tau v Sipi Tau
One of the most memorable moments of the tournament came at Warrington’s Halliwell Jones Stadium during the quarter-final between Samoa and Tonga.
The two pacific nations performed their respective war dances at the same time and set up for a classic World Cup fixture as Samoa won 20-18.
The Tongan support
Are Tonga fans the most passionate in the sport? They definitely put up a good case during this year’s tournament. St Helens hosted two of their group fixtures, and the Tongan community showed their support in and around the ground during all their games – the third being held in Middlesbrough.
Tonga players were swarmed each time by supporters during their short journey from the team coach to the stadium entrances, and they certainly brought the party. NRL cult hero Fuifui Moimoi was also one of many amongst the celebrations!
Papua New Guinea are like everyone’s favourite second team, aren’t they?
I think everyone wants to see the Kumuls succeed in rugby league because we admire the passion they have for the game. Papua New Guinea and the Cook Islands are the only countries in the world where rugby league is the national sport after all.
The men’s side reached the quarter-finals, falling short to hosts England, whilst the women made it to the semi-finals.
The likes of Edwin Ipape and Elsie Albert can inspire the next generation to pick up a rugby ball.
It seemed like the nation fell in love with wheelchair rugby league this autumn. How good was it to see so many games shown live on the BBC by the way?
I was in town doing shopping the other day when I overheard two elderly men having a chat about how much they had gotten into wheelchair rugby league this World Cup. When talking about leaving a legacy, this is what we’re on about, inspiring people of all ages.
The wheelchair game has some immense athletes involved. Every player deserves all the credit they get for putting their bodies on the line because it’s brutal.
English role models
There were more eyes on the England women’s team than ever before, and they didn’t let us down.
These girls don’t get paid to play at their respective clubs, although Leeds will become the first team to do so in 2023. They play out of pure love for the game, and that love was evident in the tournament.
Emily Rudge is a proper captain. Caitlin Beevers is an exceptional athlete. Georgia Roche is a supremely talented half-back. Jodie Cunningham & Co have worked tirelessly for the women’s game to have the profile it’s now got in England.
These Lionesses deserve all the plaudits. They’ve inspired so many girls around the country that they can play rugby league.
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A standout player from each nation at the men’s World Cup
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