Andrew Fifita is one of several NRL stars who will be making their first appearance for their country in the 2013 World Cup. Credit: NRL Photos Copyright: NRL Photos
Australia may be World Cup favourites and New Zealand may be the title-holders, but several other nations at this year's tournament will be boasting a host of NRL stars – from rookies on the rise to veterans who have already played at the highest level for club and country. In fact, more than 120 NRL stars past and present will be on show.
Here are 10 players who will make their debut for their chosen country at the 2013 World Cup, either with their first international appearance or after switching national allegiance.
First off, some guidelines: under the Rugby League International Federation's eligibility laws, a player can represent the country of his parents or grandparents, or his place of birth or residence. Once a player has represented a country, he cannot represent another country until the end of the next World Cup or a period of two years, whichever comes first. After that time, a player is allowed to represent a different nation if eligible.
Petero Civoniceva (Fiji)
The Brisbane Broncos legend and former Panthers skipper has represented Australia 45 times and played State of Origin for Queensland for more than a decade, but will represent his country of birth for the first time at the 2013 World Cup. The 37-year-old prop brings a ton of experience to the national team and links up with the squad after a season with the Redcliffe Dolphins in Queensland's Intrust Super Cup, in which he won the club's Player of the Year gong. Speedsters Akuila Uate, Marika Koroibete and Kevin Naiqama are likely to steal the highlights for Fiji but expect big Petero to play a part if the Bati are to spring a surprise or two against the bigger nations.
Andrew Fifita (Australia)
Fifita has enjoyed a remarkable rise in the past year. Now boasting the skills and work ethic to match his raw size and power, the Sharks prop started the season with the goal of playing rep football and then ticked all the boxes: he played City-Country in April, State of Origin in June and has now been selected for Australia's World Cup squad. The one-time Tonga international is expected to get game time as well, and could be pushing Matt Scott and James Tamou for a starting berth by the end of the tournament.
Anthony Milford (Samoa)
One of the few bright lights of a mixed year for the Raiders, teenage speedster Milford will be the attacking spark of a Samoan side that packs plenty of grunt. He made 16 line-breaks and scored nine tries in the 18 games of his rookie NRL season, graduating from super sub to 80-minute regular halfway through the campaign. Milford is capable of causing some real problems for the Kiwis in their opening match of the tournament.
Jorge Taufua (Tonga)
Taufua had a superb season for grand finalists Manly this season, running in 20 tries in 26 games to earn his first international call-up with Tonga. The barnstorming 102kg winger now has two full seasons of the NRL under his belt and will be a key strike weapon out wide for the Tongans, who will be battling with Scotland and Italy for a place in the quarter-finals.
Clint Newton (USA)
The veteran back-rower, who has won premierships with Newcastle and Melbourne and will return to the Knights next season after stints with Hull Kingston Rovers and the Panthers, was actually born in South Carolina. He'll be the most experienced member of the USA Tomahawks squad at the 2013 World Cup, with a quarter-finals spot up for grabs if the Americans can get the better of Wales and Cook Islands.
Brett White (Ireland)
One of five NRL players picked in Ireland's World Cup squad, White missed the last tournament in 2008 due to foot surgery and went on to represent Australia a year later in the Four Nations. The Raiders prop has played eight State of Origin games for New South Wales and will be an obvious leader for the Irish, who will be at long odds to survive their group against the might of Australia, England and Fiji.
Peter Wallace (Scotland)
Wallace was born in Melbourne, started his career with the Panthers, has played the bulk of his NRL football with Brisbane and will return to the foot of the Blue Mountains next season – but not before representing Scotland for the first time at the World Cup. The former NSW Origin halfback will be one of three NRL players to line up for the Bravehearts thanks to a Scottish family background, alongside the Gold Coast's Luke Douglas and North Queensland's Kane Linnett.
Joseph Leilua (Samoa)
Knights centre Joseph ‘BJ’ Leilua has had a rollercoaster couple of seasons – after being sacked by the Roosters he was recruited by Wayne Bennett and proved to be one of Newcastle's best in their run towards the preliminary finals in 2013. The powerful left centre scored 13 tries in 19 games this season and brings aggression and quality finishing ability to a Samoan outfit brimming with NRL talent.
Kade Snowden (Italy)
The one-time Australian Test prop and former NSW Origin player will line up for the Italians – after sitting out the final two games of his seven-match suspension. The Knights star will sit out Italy's pre-tournament trial match against England and their opener against Wales before playing his first matches for the country against Scotland and Tonga. He's just one of several NRL players in the Italian squad, alongside the likes of Anthony and Mark Minichiello, Aiden Guerra, Anthony Laffranchi, Cameron Ciraldo, James Tedesco, Joel Riethmuller and Paul Vaughan.
Tariq Sims (Fiji)
Since bursting onto the NRL scene in 2011, the big-hitting, hard-running Sims has been a player to watch. He starred in the 2012 NSW City-Country game but that's as far as his representative career has gone until now, thanks largely to two broken legs in successive years. But after enjoying his most stable season to date, Sims is ready to star on the international stage alongside brothers Ashton and Korbin for Fiji.