Eight to appreciate: Players who can light up the Rugby League World Cup tournament

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Rugby League World Cup: Centenary show struggles to catch fire as England and Australia prepare for warm-up act

Patrick Entat

France

Background

Captain and scrum-half for France. Plays for Avignon. Aged 31. Fireman who played for Leeds last season.

Strengths

A tireless organiser, Entat has been the heartbeat of French rugby league for most of the last 10 years. Sharp and streetwise, he is reaping the benefit of having played club rugby outside France. Cunning tactician and skilful kicker.

Weaknesses

At 31, he could be losing some of his zip around the scrum-base. Also, his last experience in Britain, of being signed and then virtually forgotten by Leeds, means that he has no recent happy memories of this country.

How to

recognise him

He will be the Frenchman best able to communicate with the referees.

Brad Fittler

Australia

Captain and stand-off or loose forward for Australia. Recently signed for Sydney City Roosters. Aged 23. Signed and played first grade for Penrith while still at school.

Fittler is the player with everything - power, pace, skill, the full armoury. For a big man his sidestep is phenomenal and his kicking game ranks as the best in the world. He was the player the ARL was most desperate to retain in its war with Super League.

In an ideal world, less of Australia's play would be channelled through him. Brilliant as he is, he needs other playmakers around him to prevent defences concentrating entirely on him. Yet to master the off- field duties of an Australian captain

He will answer to the name Freddie, and definitely not to his alternative nickname - Adolf.

Iestyn Harris

Wales

Stand-off or full-back for Wales. Aged 19. Joined Warrington from the amateur rugby league club Oldham St Annes two years ago.

English-born player whose roots are entirely in rugby league will be crucial to Wales. Harris is an immensely gifted young player who has grown in stature through his early exposure to international rugby. There shouldn't be a better side- step in the World Cup.

Still to settle on his best position, for either club or country. Where he will play in this tournament depends on where Wales decide to use Jonathan Davies. By no means slow, but an extra half-yard of pure pace would be useful.

He is the one back who struggles with the words of the Welsh anthem.

Adrian Lam

Papua New Guinea

Born Papua New Guinea, but played his early career with Wests in Brisbane. Signed for Easts - now the Sydney City Roosters - in 1994 and capped that season.

Lam brings Winfield Cup know-how to a squad that traditionally travels badly. His play for the victorious Queensland team in the State of Origin series showed him to be a top-class half-back. Could have played for Australia if he had chosen to do so.

Captaining a side of players from disparate ethnic groups is a big challenge for a young player with little experience of leadership. Will they take any notice of him?

He will be the only PNG player not shivering, having experienced the hardships of a Sydney winter.

John Lomax

New Zealand

Prop forward and vice-captain of New Zealand. One of three league- playing brothers from Wellington. Joined the Canberra Raiders in 1993.

At his best, Lomax is the complete prop forward: big, strong and rugged. His party piece is his ability to slip a telling pass out of the tackle, often long after he has appeared to be tied up.

While that pass can be devastating when it works, Lomax can have matches when he puts the ball on the ground more often than into team- mates' hands. Relies on his runners being there.

Lomax will be the player always turning and looking for support in the tackle.

Noa Nadruku

Fiji

Former Fijian rugby union international who joined the Canberra Raiders in 1993. Plays on the wing.

Nadruku's record says it all. He has a higher scoring ratio - four tries in every five games - than any other player in the 14 years of the Winfield Cup. Has a hand-off that belies his skinny frame. If he gets in the clear he will not be caught.

Will not get the sort of service from a relatively raw Fiji back- line that he enjoys at Canberra.

Martin Offiah

England

Former Rosslyn Park rugby union winger. Signed for Widnes in 1987 and transferred for a world record pounds 440,000 to Wigan in 1992. Aged 28.

Quite simply the most prolific winger the modern game has seen. Offiah is not now open to the criticism that he hangs around on his wing waiting for the ball to come to him. A number of his tries this season have come from surges through the middle, where power has been as important a factor as sheer speed.

Offiah believes he is marginally below top pace, due to a summer weights regime that saw him pile on almost a stone. His defence has improved immeasurably, but he can still be caught in two minds on occasion. Cannot decide on his hair colour either.

Look for an innovative World Cup hairstyle.

Va'aiga Tuigamala

Western Samoa

Former All Black winger, signed by Wigan in 1994 on a four-year contract reportedly worth pounds 350,000. Will be 26 on Wednesday.

Strength. Now that Wigan have honed his physique, Inga is an immensely difficult runner to stop. For a man in the typically Samoan brick outhouse mould, he is astonishingly quick into his stride. His handling, although you could hardly tell during his rugby union days, is as precise and delicate as his running style is destructive.

Started the season rather slowly after a long break in Samoa for a family funeral and is only just getting into top gear. His positional sense, rudimentary in the extreme when he first arrived in league, has improved, but he is still sometimes caught with his back to play.

The Samoan who makes other Samoans look puny.

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