England national rugby league team

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Badge of England team
Governing body Rugby Football League
Region Europe
Head coach Steve McNamara
Captain Sean O'Loughlin
Most caps James Graham (29)
Top try-scorer Ryan Hall (26)
Top point-scorer Kevin Sinfield (202)
RLIF ranking 3rd
First international
 England 9–3 Other Nationalities
(Wigan, England; 5 April 1904)
Biggest win
 United States 0–110 England 
(Orlando, Florida, USA; October 2000)
Biggest defeat
 Australia 52–4 England 
(Melbourne; 2 November 2008)
World Cup
Appearances 5 (first time in 1975)
Best result Runners-up, 1975; 1995

The England national rugby league team represent England in international rugby league football tournaments. The team has now seen a revival, having largely formed from the Great Britain team, who also represented Wales, Scotland and Ireland. The team is run under the auspices of the Rugby Football League. As of 2008, the team now participates in all World Cups, Four Nations and Test matches.[1]

The team dates back to 1904 when they played against a mixture of Welsh and Scottish players in Wigan.[2] Since then, and right up until the 1950s, they regularly toured Australia and New Zealand and played both home and away matches against neighbours Wales and France. But when it was decided that Great Britain would tour the Southern Hemisphere instead of England, France and Wales became the only regular opponents. Even then though, there are some long periods where England barely played any matches. Their first appearance in the Rugby League World Cup was in 1975, and since then they have become runners-up in 1975 and 1995, the latter tournament being held in England. In 2008 they competed in the 2008 World Cup in Australia. For many years England also competed in the European Nations Cup and in 2006, an England 'A' team, competed for the Federation Shield. In the past England's main rivals have been Wales and France, with the rivalry stretching back to 1908 and 1934 respectively. However, England's main rivals would now be Australia, New Zealand and, to a lesser extent, France.

Traditionally a predominantly white kit is worn including white shorts and socks. However the jersey usually features some form of red, like red stripes, crosses or chevrons. These colours are similar to other English sporting teams and are the colours used on the national flag. In 2008 a new kit was introduced featuring a red cross on the front and red strips down the sides of the jersey, shorts and socks were white too with red strips.[3] Also in 2008 the Rugby Football League chose to abandon the traditional English lion on the badge in favour of a much simpler shield and cross design,[4] nevertheless the team will still be known as "The Lions".

Currently the team is ranked third in the world, behind Australia and New Zealand. Steve McNamara became head coach leaving Bradford to take the national job and Sean O'Loughlin is the current captain.


The England team jersey

The first matches

In 1895 twenty-one clubs split with the Rugby Football Union, citing that they wanted to play professionally, and formed the Northern Rugby Football Union. The twenty-one clubs were all from Northern England and the players were largely working class. However it was not just English players who made the switch, Scottish and Welsh players also switched allegiance to the new code, wanting payments for playing. Switching heightened in the early 20th century with more Scottish and Welsh players leaving the RFU than ever before.

The England national rugby union team had been playing international matches since 1871, but it was not until 1904, nine years after the formation of the new code, that an international rugby league match was played. At the start of 1903 season the Northern Union thought about international matches and scheduled a match for England on New Year's Day 1904 in Oldham. On that day though, the ground was frosty and the match was cancelled and it was rescheduled for April.

On 5 April 1904 England competed against a team called "Other Nationalities", who were made up of ten Welshman and two Scotsman, including George Frater, who captained the side. It was a period of experimentation for the Northern Union and each team had twelve players, not thirteen. At Central Park, Wigan the ground was muddy and in poor condition, however the match went ahead. England steamed into a 3–0 lead, from a try by Warrington's Jackie Fish. This is despite Salford's James Lomas arriving late and causing England to start the match with eleven players. Fish missed the conversion and so the Other Nationalities were able to level the scores a little later, Welshman Thomas crashing over for a try. The conversion was missed and going into half-time the score was tied 3–3. In the second half Thomas went over for another try before Wigan's Harris sealed a 9–3 win for the Other Nationalities in the final minutes of the match. A total of 6,000 spectators turned up for the match, which was considered a poor showing despite a Broughton Rangers v Bradford cup clash being scheduled on the same day.

In 1905 a match between the two sides was played at Bradford. This time England won 26–11 even though they were losing 11–0 at half-time. Wigan's Jim Leytham scored four tries in succession, a record that still stand today.[5] The match was played with fifteen players on each side and so was the 1906 match. Played in Wigan again, the match finished a 3–3 draw. The concept was abandoned after the 1906 match. By 1908 the game had expanded much more into Australia, New Zealand and Wales and England began playing those teams. Harold Wagstaff made his debut for England in 1908 against the touring Kangaroos team at 17 years and 228 days.[6]

The Other Nationalities side did return in 1921. An England side beat the Australasian team of the 1921–22 Kangaroo tour of Great Britain 4–5 at Highbury. England played only one international between 10 May 1956 and 7 November 1968 an 18–6 victory at Headingley.

1975 World Cup debut

England played at the World Cup in 1975 coached by Alex Murphy, which was played over several months in both hemispheres on a league basis. Normally Great Britain would represent England in the World Cup, but the RLIF wanted to capitalise on the large amount of Welsh players in the game at the time, and so England and Wales fielded separate teams.

England won their first match, a 20–2 victory over France in Leeds in March. In June the Lions suffered their first defeat in just their second match of the tournament, losing 12–7 against a strong Wales side in Brisbane. A little later England managed to hold on for a draw against Australia in Sydney, the final score being 10–10. And they also picked up a point in Auckland, drawing 17–17 against New Zealand. At the end of October, after the domestic season had finished, England beat the Welsh 22–16 in Warrington and then crossed the English Channel to thrash a French side 48–2 in Bordeaux. Bradford played host the England versus New Zealand match, in which England won comfortably 27–12.

At the start of November, England squeezed past Australia winning 16–13 in November at Wigan. This meant that the Kangaroos had finished on 13 points, with the Lions on 12 points. Australia were deemed champions by finishing top of the table, but because they had not beaten England a final match was quickly arranged. Australia beat England 25–0 at Leeds to clinch their fourth title.


In the 1995 World Cup for the first time since 1975. England were coached by Phil Larder. The Lions got off to a flying start beating Australia 20–16 in the opening game at Wembley, then hammering Fiji and South Africa in the remaining group games to finish top of group A. This set up a semi-final game at Old Trafford against Wales. England won the tussle 25–10 to reach the World Cup final, but they lost 16–8 to Australia at Wembley Stadium. England would not play again until 2000.


John Kear was coach of England for the World Cup in 2000. Compared to 1995, England had little success, losing their opening game at Twickenham 22–2 against Australia. But they won their remaining two pool games against Fiji and Russia. A surprisingly competitive display by Ireland in the quarter-finals, saw England scrape through to the semi-finals 26–16. England then went down to a record defeat, losing 49–6 to New Zealand at Bolton, and were knocked out of the tournament.[7]

England at the 2008 RLWC

England once again competed in the 2008 World Cup, this time travelling to Australia to do so. They got one sole win against Papua New Guinea in the opening match of the tournament, but, following that, lost once to Australia and twice to eventual cup winners New Zealand finishing 3rd in Group A. They then lost to New Zealand in the semi final 32-22. England's performance in the World Cup attracted criticism from the local media.


England competed in the first Four Nations in 2009 and finished 2nd and lost in the final at Elland Road to Australia 46-16. In 2010 they missed out on getting to the final only winning one game against Papua New Guinea and losing to both Australia and New Zealand. England reached their 2nd final in 2011 but lost again to Australia 30-8.

England automatically qualified for the 2013 World Cup along with Wales who were the co-hosts of the tournament, the first to be held in England for thirteen years. England finished 2nd in Group A only losing once to Australia. They then beat France 34-6 in the quarter final at Wigan but failed to beat current world champions New Zealand at Wembley Stadium in the semi final after conceding a try in the last 30 seconds of play.

England finished third in the 2014 Four Nations in Australia and New Zealand with their only win coming against Samoa. They lost 16-12 to Australia after Ryan Hall had a try disallowed in Melbourne. Their hopes of getting to the final against Australia were ruined when they lost to New Zealand 16-14.

At the conclusion of the 2015 season England will play the world no.1 ranked team, New Zealand, in a three-match test series. A week beforehand they demolished France in a record victory.[8] England won the series 2-1 after a 20-14 victory in the decisive third test in Wigan. This was England's first major series win in 8 years with their last win coming in the previous Kiwis tour of Great Britain.

England automatically qualified for the 2016 Four Nations and will co-host the tournament with Scotland.

England qualified for the 2017 World Cup automatically after reaching the semi final in 2013.

Team image

Media coverage

The BBC have the rights to screen all England games. They showed every game England competed in at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup as well as all their Four Nations games.


File:Old England RL Logo.jpg
The old logo was used until 2008.
  • The Lions crest

The badge was originally a combination of the St. George's cross, the Three Lions Coat of Arms of England and Tudor rose. It was similar to most other English sporting badges, such as the England national football team and the English national cricket team which all promote similar attributes.

  • The Shield Crest

The new official logo was launched on 6 February 2008 on the rugby league magazine programme Boots N' All. The cross of St George is positioned across a three-dimensional shield within the design. The date "1895" is placed through the centre of the cross, symbolising the birth of rugby league. Many people involved in the sport were consulted throughout the design process, which took a little under a year. The logo will be used for the 2008 World Cup and many future events and tournaments.

Kit suppliers

Manufacturers Period
Germany Puma 2008-2010
Australia ISC 2010-2015
Australia BLK 2015-

Current squad

The England national team squad selected for the 2015 end of year internationals against France and New Zealand.[9] (caps and points apply for after the internationals finished):

Other Nat. Pos. Player Date of birth (age) Caps Pts Club
England Fullback Zak Hardaker (1991-10-17) 17 October 1991 (age 30) 5 8 File:Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Rhinos
England Fullback Sam Tomkins (1989-03-23) 23 March 1989 (age 33) 25 80 File:Wigancolours.svg Wigan Warriors
England Wing Joe Burgess (1994-10-14) 14 October 1994 (age 27) 3 4 File:Wigancolours.svg Wigan Warriors
England Wing Ryan Hall (1987-11-27) 27 November 1987 (age 34) 27 104 File:Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Rhinos
England Wing Jermaine McGillvary (1988-05-16) 16 May 1988 (age 34) 1 0 File:Giantscolours.svg Huddersfield Giants
England Centre Kallum Watkins (1991-03-12) 12 March 1991 (age 31) 15 36 File:Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Rhinos
England Centre Leroy Cudjoe (1988-04-07) 7 April 1988 (age 34) 10 14 File:Giantscolours.svg Huddersfield Giants
England Stand-off Gareth Widdop (1989-03-12) 12 March 1989 (age 33) 18 84 Illawarra colours.svg St. George Illawarra Dragons
England Stand-off George Williams (1994-10-31) 31 October 1994 (age 27) 3 4 File:Wigancolours.svg Wigan Warriors
England Halfback Matty Smith (1987-07-23) 23 July 1987 (age 34) 4 0 File:Wigancolours.svg Wigan Warriors
England Halfback Luke Gale (1988-06-22) 22 June 1988 (age 34) 0 0 Castleford colours.svg Castleford Tigers
England Prop Tom Burgess (1992-04-21) 21 April 1992 (age 30) 9 4 South Sydney colours.svg South Sydney Rabbitohs
England Prop Mike Cooper (1988-09-15) 15 September 1988 (age 33) 4 0 Illawarra colours.svg St. George Illawarra Dragons
England Prop James Graham (Vice Captain) (1985-09-10) 10 September 1985 (age 36) 29 4 Canterbury colours.svg Canterbury Bulldogs
England Prop Chris Hill (1987-11-03) 3 November 1987 (age 34) 14 0 File:Wolvescolours.svg Warrington Wolves
England Hooker James Roby (1985-11-22) 22 November 1985 (age 36) 25 20 File:Saintscolours.svg St Helens
England Hooker Josh Hodgson (1989-10-31) 31 October 1989 (age 32) 6 8 Canberra colours.svg Canberra Raiders
England Second-row Liam Farrell (1990-07-02) 2 July 1990 (age 32) 9 8 File:Wigancolours.svg Wigan Warriors
England Second-row Brett Ferres (1986-04-17) 17 April 1986 (age 36) 14 32 File:Giantscolours.svg Huddersfield Giants
England Second-row John Bateman (1993-09-30) 30 September 1993 (age 28) 4 8 File:Wigancolours.svg Wigan Warriors
England Second-row Elliott Whitehead (1989-09-04) 4 September 1989 (age 32) 5 8 Catalanscolours.svg Catalans Dragons
Ireland Second-row Ben Currie (1994-07-15) 15 July 1994 (age 27) 0 0 File:Wolvescolours.svg Warrington Wolves
England Second-row Ben Westwood (1981-07-25) 25 July 1981 (age 40) 25 14 File:Wolvescolours.svg Warrington Wolves
England Lock Sean O'Loughlin (Captain) (1982-11-24) 24 November 1982 (age 39) 17 20 File:Wigancolours.svg Wigan Warriors


  • As of 15 November 2015

Most capped players

James Graham is England's most capped player
# Name Career Caps Tries Position
1 James Graham 2008–2015 29 1 PR
2 Kevin Sinfield 2000–2013 27 5 SO
3 Ryan Hall 2009–2015 27 26 W
4 Sam Tomkins 2009–2014 25 20 FB
5 Ben Westwood 2004–2013 25 3 PR
6 James Roby 2008–2015 25 5 HK
7 Adrian Morley 2000–2012 23 1 PR
8 Jamie Peacock 2000–2011 21 8 PR
9 Gareth Widdop 2010–2015 18 3 SO
10 Sean O'Loughlin 2009–2015 17 5 LF
11 Gareth Ellis 2008–2012 16 2 SR
12 Tom Briscoe 2009–2013 15 11 W
13 Rob Burrow 2003–2013 15 12 H
14 Kallum Watkins 2012–2015 15 9 CE
15 Jamie Jones-Buchanan 2005–2012 14 3 SR
16 Brett Ferres 2006–2015 14 8 SR
17 Chris Hill 2012–2015 14 0 PR
18 Sam Burgess 2008–2013 14 8 PR
19 Paul Wellens 2000–2008 11 4 FB
20 Jon Wilkin 2004–2011 10 1 SO

Top try scorers

Ryan Hall is England's all time top try scorer

Only two England players have scored 20 tries or more.

# Name Career Tries Caps Position
1 Ryan Hall 2009–2015 26 27 W
2 Sam Tomkins 2009–2014 20 25 FB
3 Rob Burrow 2003–2013 12 15 H
4 Tom Briscoe 2009–2013 11 15 W
5 Kallum Watkins 2012–2015 9 15 CE
6 Jamie Peacock 2000–2011 8 21 PR
7 Brett Ferres 2006–2015 8 14 SR
8 Sam Burgess 2008–2013 8 14 P

Top points scorers

Sinfield is England's top points scorer
# Name Career Caps Points Position
1 Kevin Sinfield 2009–2013 27 202 SO
2 Ryan Hall 2009–2015 27 104 W
3 Gareth Widdop 2009–2015 18 84 SO
4 Sam Tomkins 2009–2014 25 80 FB

Competitive Record

World Cup

England have competed five times in the World Cup; in 1975, 1995, 2000, 2008 and 2013. They have never won the competition, though finished runners-up to Australia in 1975 and 1995. In every other year, Great Britain have represented England.

World Cup Record
Year Round Position Pld
France 1954 Did not enter
Australia 1957
England 1960
Australia New Zealand 1968
England 1970
France 1972
1975 Final 2nd out of 5 9
Australia New Zealand 1977 Did not enter
England 1995 Final 2nd out of 10 5
United Kingdom Republic of Ireland France 2000 Semi-final 4th out of 16 5
Australia 2008 Semi-final 3rd out of 10 4
England Wales 2013 Semi-final 3rd out of 14 5
Australia New Zealand 2017

Four Nations

England replaced Great Britain in competing in the Rugby League Four Nations which replaced the previous Tri Nations tournament. They have been runners up twice in 2009 and 2011.

Four Nations Record
Year Round Position Pld
England France 2009 Final 2nd out of 4 5
Australia New Zealand 2010 Group Stage 3rd out of 4 4
England Wales 2011 Final 2nd out of 4 5
Australia New Zealand 2014 Group Stage 3rd out of 4 4
England Scotland 2016

European Championship

England have competed in twenty-six European Nations Cups, the first in 1935. In the past the tournament has been axed and revived many times, and it was stopped for six years because of the Second World War. From 1935 to 1949 (minus the war years) England played France and Wales annually, and won the tournament in 1935, 1946, 1947 and 1948. From 1950 to 1956 an Other Nationalities team were added as the fourth team in the competition (except in 1956 when Wales did not field a team). During those years England won in 1950 and 1954. Since then the tournament has run for some seasons, but never for more than five years at a time. But from 1970 to 1996 England won it six out of a possible nine times. In 2003 the tournament was revived and England comfortably won, beating her old rivals plus Scotland, Ireland and Russia. England beat the same opponents to win the cup again in 2004. This was the last time England competed to give the competition more of a level playing field for other teams, however England Knights competed in 2012.

European Championship Record
Year Round Position Pld
1935 Winners 1st out of 3 2
1935-36 Group Stage 2nd out of 3 2
1936-37 Group Stage 2nd out of 3 2
1938 Group Stage 3rd out of 3 2
1938-39 Group Stage 2nd out of 3 2
1945-46 Winners 1st out of 3 2
1946-47 Winners 1st out of 3 2
1947-48 Winners 1st out of 3 2
1948-49 Group Stage 2nd out of 3 2
1949-50 Winners 1st out of 4 3
1950-51 Group Stage 3rd out of 4 3
1951-52 Group Stage 2nd out of 4 3
1952-53 Group Stage 3rd out of 4 3
1953-54 Winners 1st out of 4 3
1955-56 Group Stage 3rd out of 3 2
1969-70 Winners 1st out of 3 2
1975 Winners 1st out of 3 2
1977 Group Stage 3rd out of 3 2
1978 Winners 1st out of 3 2
1979 Winners 1st out of 3 2
1980 Winners 1st out of 3 2
1981 Group Stage 2nd out of 3 2
1995 Group Stage 2nd out of 3 2
1996 Winners 1st out of 3 2
2003 Winners 1st out of 6 3
2004 Winners 1st out of 6 3


Name Nationality Years Games Won Drawn Lost Honours
Alex Murphy England 1974-75 12 8 2 2 1975 European Rugby League Championship
Peter Fox England 1977 2 0 0 2
Frank Myler England 1978 2 2 0 0 1978 European Rugby League Championship
Johnny Whiteley England 1981 3 2 0 1
Ellery Hanley England 1995 2 1 0 1
Phil Larder England 1995-96 7 6 0 1 1996 European Rugby League Championship
Andy Goodway England 1998 1 1 0 0
John Kear England 1999-2004 12 10 0 2 2003 European Nations Cup
Karl Harrison England 2004-06 5 4 0 1 2004 European Nations Cup
Paul Cullen England 2006-07 4 4 0 0 Federation Shield
Tony Smith Australia 2007-09 12 7 0 5
Steve McNamara England 2010- 30 17 1 12 Baskerville Shield
  • This list of coaches is not fully complete


World Cup:
Runners-up: 1995, 2000

Four Nations:
Runners-up: 2009, 2011

Baskerville Shield (1): 2015

European Championship (14): 1935, 1945–46, 1946–47, 1947–48, 1949–50, 1953–54, 1969–70, 1975, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1996, 2003, 2004





  • Biggest home attendance: 67,545 v New Zealand at Wembley Stadium (World Cup Semi-Final), 23 November 2013


Official Rankings as of December 2015[10]
Rank Change Team Points
1 Steady  New Zealand 897.00
2  Australia 719.00
3  England 655.00
4  Samoa 280.00
5  France 209.00
6 Increase  Ireland 162.00
7 Decrease  Fiji 147.00
8 Increase  Wales 132.00
9 Decrease  Scotland 121.00
10 Steady  United States 102.00
11 Increase  Serbia 72.00
12 Steady  Italy 65.00
13  Canada 62.00
14 Decrease  Papua New Guinea 60.00
15 Increase  Russia 46.00
16 Decrease  Tonga 40.00
17 Increase  Belgium 40.00
18  Malta 32.00
19 Steady  Germany 28.00
20  Lebanon 27.00
21 Increase  Spain 26.00
22 Decrease  Cook Islands 23.00
23  Ukraine 22.00
24 Steady  Greece 21.00
25 Increase  Denmark 20.00
26 Decrease  Norway 19.00
27 Increase  Jamaica 16.00
28 Decrease  Netherlands 15.00
29 Decrease  Sweden 15.00
30 Steady  Czech Republic 14.00
31 Decrease  South Africa 13.00
32 Steady  Niue 4.00
33  Hungary 2.00
34  Latvia 2.00
35  Morocco 0.00

Other England Teams

England Knights

In 2011 the England Knights were created to serve as a step up for the younger players from their club in view of playing for the 1st team. A squad of players were chosen (below the age of 25) to represent the Knights in a few games. Their first ever game was against France and the Knights came out 38–18 victors.

The Knights won the 2012 European Cup by beating Ireland and Scotland in a 3-game tournament.

England Lionesses

Famous players

The following players played for England and are either British Rugby League Hall of Fame inductees, or are one of the top five caps, tries, goals, or points scorers for England. Although both Gus Risman, and Jim Sullivan were Welsh, they are British Rugby League Hall of Fame inductees, and actually played for England, as well as for Wales and Great Britain. British Rugby League Hall of Fame inductee Vince Karalius was English (of Lithuanian heritage), and although he played for Great Britain, he never played for England, as England games were limited in his playing era. Although George Fairbairn is Scottish, as of 7 November 2010, he is England's highest goal, and points scorer.

See also


  1. The Rugby Football League – Brand England Launched Retrieved on 24 May 2008.
  2. RL1895 – The First International Retrieved on 6 June 2008.
  3. England Official Website – New Shirt Launched Retrieved on 18 June 2008.
  4. England Official Website – New Logo Retrieved on 18 June 2008.
  5. England Official Website – A Proud Past Retrieved on 18 June 2008.
  6. Norris McWhirter, Donald McFarlan (1992). The Guinness Book of Records 1992. Guinness World Records Limited. p. 290. ISBN 978-0-85112-378-3. Retrieved 27 February 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Brook, Kip; NZPA (20 November 2000). "Slick Kiwis storm into final". New Zealand Herald. New Zealand: APN Holdings NZ Limited. Retrieved 15 October 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "England demolish France 84-4 in record win". Sky Sports. 24 October 2015. Retrieved 24 October 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "MCNAMARA NAMES 24-MAN SQUAD FOR 2015 INTERNATIONAL SERIES". englandrl.co.uk. 11 October 2015. Retrieved 11 October 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. RLIF Rankings.

External links