Opinion: An Exiles 2019 team

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After LoveRugbyLeague curated a would-be team were the Exiles to reform in 2019, they challenged fans to create there own – and here is Get ’em Onside’s, with the limit of two players from any Super League team.

FB: Tony Gigot (Catalans Dragons)
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An undoubted star of 2018, Gigot is just one of three French players selected in this matchday squad. While the original Exiles were comprised of solely southern hemisphere players, I am working on the premise that players from France are eligible and, after impressing in Catalans’ 2018 turnaround and winning the Lance Todd trophy in their Challenge Cup triumph, 27-year-old Gigot is a more-than-worthy inclusion.

W: Fetuli Talanoa (Hull FC)
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One of a range of powerful wingers currently plying their trade in Super League, three-time Tonga international Talanoa has got the finishing quality to match his physical prowess. Any winger who lines up against the towering Airlie Bird winger will certainly know they have been in a match and his strength in the air has aided his impressive try scoring record – of which he scored fourteen in 2018.

C: Bill Tupou (Wakefield Trinity)

The second member of a very powerful backline is Wakefield’s Bill Tupou, a man who was named in the 2018 Super League Dream Team after impressing for Chris Chester’s men. The leading metre-maker in the competition, Tupou – like Talanoa – is a strong finisher. A work-hungry individual, the 28-year-old recorded a league-best 475 carries to go with his top metre-making exploits, ensuring that he will be viewed as a key member of any team he represents.

C: Konrad Hurrell (Leeds Rhinos)
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Any England back line would be given a serious workout by an edge of Talanoa and Tupou but the opposite flank would certainly be well tested by Leeds Rhinos’ new marquee signing, Tongan international Konrad Hurrell. Another barnstorming threequarter, the former Gold Coast Titan is set to be a big hit in Super League. If The Exiles were to come back, the 27-year-old is one of the best who could be selected – especially as the Pacific Island nations seem set to increase their impact on the international stage.

W: Akuila Uate (Huddersfield Giants)
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One of the off-season signings of the season, Huddersfield’s recruitment of Akuila Uate has been viewed as something of a coup for Simon Woolford’s men. A twenty-three-time international for both Fiji and Australia, Uate has experience on the biggest stage of all – especially when including his five State of Origin appearances for New South Wales. A try scoring record better than one-in-two throughout his career, 31-year-old Uate isn’t slowing down and will no doubt be a huge player for the Giants.

HB: Blake Austin (Warrington Wolves)
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Another eye-opening recruit for Super League ahead of 2019, Warrington’s signing of Canberra’s Blake Austin will ensure that the departure of Tyrone Roberts won’t be felt too hard – in fact, they may have upgraded. A large man for a half back, Austin has a power which many pivots don’t. Couple that with his ability to create and do the unexpected and The Wire have a player who could seriously threaten Super League defences.

HB: Jackson Hastings (Salford Red Devils)
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Arriving in the UK towards the end of the 2018 season, suggestions were that Hastings was joining Salford with a bad attitude in tow. However, it seems that nothing could be further from the truth and the Red Devils’ fans have taken him to their hearts. The fact he signed on for the 2019 campaign with Ian Watson’s men was something of a surprise and he is sure to light up the competition next year. He has been one player who has spoken out about his wish to see The Exiles restarted and he is certainly the sort of entertaining player who would both test opponents and excite fans.

P: David Fifita (Wakefield Trinity)
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Perhaps not as celebrated as his Australian international brother, Wakefield’s David Fifita is nevertheless one of the most effective forwards in Super League. His sheer size make him a very difficult man to stop but his offload game and skill with the ball make him a different proposition entirely to other forwards. Something of a fans’ favourite at Trinity, Fifita would challenge an England national team who, at the moment, don’t have a player comparable who boasts both the size and ball-handling ability of Fifita.

HK: Thomas Leuluai (Wigan Warriors)
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Simply put, Wigan’s Leuluai is a born winner. Boasting a longevity many rugby league players don’t have, the Warriors’ man is a fierce competitor and has won pretty much everything in the game. The 33-year-old is one of the best hookers in Super League while also being more than capable of playing in the halves and has appeared twice for The Exiles in previous instalments of the team.

P: Grant Millington (Castleford Tigers)
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One of the best forwards in Super League, Millington was a key player in Castleford’s League Leaders’ Shield winning exploits of 2017 and, while the Tigers fell short in the Grand Final, he was still one of six Cas players to be named in Super League’s Dream Team that year. Another forward with great skills when in possession, he is also a strong defender and would test any England team.

SR: Zeb Taia (St Helens)
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Any man who is a key player for the best team in the competition deserves to be noted and Zeb Taia is certainly one of the most important for St Helens. A threat with all in hand as well as a tough nut to crack in defence, 34-year-old Taia was on of the Saints’ top tacklers in 2018 as well as making just short of 3000 metres for Justin Holbrook’s team with ball in hand. A hugely experienced player, he would certainly be a daunting opponent.

SR: Benjamin Garcia (Catalans Dragons)

Another underrated back rower, Catalans’ Benjamin Garcia would perhaps be more celebrated if he was based in the UK or Australia. Nevertheless, the French international is as consistent as they come and was a key part of Steve McNamara’s team as they won the Challenge Cup and Garcia himself scored two tries in the semi-final victory over St Helens. The Dragons pack is usually associated with it’s toughness and Garcia is a big part of that and he made over 700 tackles in Super League this season while his power also left him third in the Catalans’ ranks for tackle busts. An impressive player with ball in hand and in defence.

LF: Ben Murdoch-Masila (Warrington Wolves)
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A juggernaut of a player, any future Exiles team would almost certainly have the behemoth that is ‘BMM’ in it’s ranks. Almost unstoppable close to the line, the Tongan international has been predominantly used as an interchange by Steve Price in his maiden year at Warrington but his power would be an asset from the start of a match also. A prodigious metre maker, he has excellent ball skills for a big forward and often draws numerous tacklers.

INT: Jesse Sene-Lefao (Castleford Tigers)
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A true fans’ favourite at Castleford, Jesse Sene-Lefao is an impressive player who has the ability to do the unexpected. However, he is also more than capable of punching holes and doing the dirty work for his team.

INT: Trent Merrin (Leeds Rhinos)
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A new recruit for Super League ahead of 2019, Leeds’ acquisition of Trent Merrin is something of a coup and, after appearing for the Australian Kangaroos as recently as the 2017 ANZAC test, he would be a shoe-in for this team.

INT: Sika Manu (Hull FC)
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One of the toughest men in Super League, Hull FC’s Sika Manu is a true competitor and is the current captain of a very impressive Tonga national team. While 2018 was a real disappointment for the Airlie Birds, there is no doubting Manu’s ability and experience – he would be involved in an Exiles team.

INT: Dominique Peyroux (St Helens)
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Perhaps something of a curveball inclusion, Dominique Peyroux has been a remarkably consistent player over the last couple of years for St Helens, his power and pace being a deadly mix in the back row. The 29-year-old would be a serious threat from the bench.

Due to the nature of having just two players from any one team, the likes of Trent Merrin, Kenny Edwards, Jacob Miller and Bureta Faraimo were just four who missed out. Certain positions, of course, were trickier than others to choose from. For example, England has a gluttony of riches at hooker and, as such, the top teams’ hookers tend to be from these shores – Daryl Clark, Paul McShane and James Roby to mention just three. Wingers as well were hard to pick from and, given that only two Hull FC players could be picked, Fetuli Talanoa was chosed ahead of Faraimo.

This is, of course, a hypothetical team but nevertheless quite an enjoyable yet challenging team to select given the limit. What is clear, though, is the quality is certainly there and, with the changes that have already been decided for 2019 and that are being mooted for beyond, a return of The Exiles – last seen in 2013 – could be a possibility. In 2012, there were two tests played and that could be a format which could be revisited, perhaps with a totally different team for each match from The Exiles.

Given that the southern hemisphere nations seem set to face each other more often, leaving England out of the elite international rugby league contests to a certain extent, a return of The Exiles could provide a more worthwhile exercise for Wayne Bennett’s team rather than facing the national teams of France or any of the home nations.

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