Power Rankings: International rugby league

With the NRL taking the week off, we've switched our attention to the international game, and take a look at how the weekend's Tests shape the pecking order for each team heading into this year's Rugby League World Cup.

1. Australia

International Rugby League rank: 4

The Kangaroos are actually ranked No.4 in the International Rugby League rankings due to a lack of games in recent years (they last played as a team in 2019) but any line-up comprised of the best players in Sunday's Origin II will go into the World Cup as obvious favourites. Still, the team will be nowhere near as settled as rivals New Zealand, with the ongoing Origin series likely to determine a lot of selection decisions -- particularly with rival coaches Brad Fittler and Billy Slater given new roles as national selectors. Sunday's result suggests this Kangaroos side could be packed with Blues, and more specifically, Panthers stars -- with Nathan Cleary's five-star display in NSW's game two win putting him on track to bump Daly Cherry-Evans out of the halfback role.

2. New Zealand

IRL rank: 1

The Kiwis hold top spot in the IRL rankings and are looking as strong as ever, with Jahrome Hughes and Dylan Brown an exciting new halves pairing, Joey Manu a great option at fullback and Isaiah Papali'i and Joseph Tapine bolstering a forward pack that had been weakened in recent years by a min-exodus of players to the Tonga national side. Hughes scored the opening try against Tonga on Saturday and Brown set up the second, opening the floodgates on the way to a 26-6 win.

3. England

IRL rank: 2

Thumped France 30-10 last October in their first game since 2018 and will have home advantage at the World Cup -- although they face a tricky match in the tournament opener against a Samoa side that looked red hot against the Cook Islands on the weekend.

4. Tonga

IRL rank: 3

The pride of international rugby league in the last few years, Tonga was superb in the last World Cup, putting 50 points past Scotland, beating Samoa and New Zealand and narrowly bowing out at the hands of England 20-18. They've still got a star-studded forward pack -- led by Jason Taumalolo and featuring Addin Fonua-Blake, Siosiua Taukeiaho, Sitili Tupouniua, Keaon Koloamatangi, Haumole Olakau'atu and Moeaki Fotuaika. But their backline lacks the class of the top teams and they weren't able to match it with the Kiwis on Saturday, going down 26-6 despite playing in front of a raucous pro-Tonga crowd.

5. Samoa

IRL rank: 8

Samoa may not have the star-power of Tonga but they're arguably a more well-rounded team, with Panthers young guns Izack Tago and Taylan May teaming up in the outside backs, star Manly trio Josh Schuster, Martin Taupau and Josh Aloiai leading the forward pack, and talented wildcards like Jazz Tevaga, Chanel Harris-Tavita, Anthony Milford and David Nofoaluma. They made light work of the Cook Islands with a 42-12 win on Saturday, with Schuster providing three try assists, David Nofoaluma scoring four tries, and Milford playing his best game of the year. The will like their chances against France and even England in World Cup Group A.

6. Papua New Guinea

IRL rank: 5

Captain David Mead retired from international rugby league in the perfect way with a try in a surprise 24-14 win over a Fiji side stacked with NRL talent. Lachlan Lam grabbed two tries, McKenzie Lei bulldozed past four defenders to score on debut and Storm star Justin Olam set up two tries in a terrific performance from the Kumuls. They're no stranger to giant-killing wins either, having toppled Great Britain in Port Moresby back in 2019.

7. Fiji

IRL rank: 6

On paper a team with barnstorming backrower Viliame Kikau and talented outside backs like Maika Sivo, Waqa Blake and Mikaele Ravalawa is always going to be an attacking threat, but they didn't quite have enough to get the better of Papua New Guinea on Saturday. Regardless, they'll be confident of getting out of Group B against Italy and Scotland -- even if they have to face the might of Australia first up.

8. France

IRL rank: 7

Will need to beat either Samoa or England to escape Group A, which looks a tough task on current form. France did beat Wales earlier this month, 34-10, and had won three of their past four (against Wales, Ireland and Scotland, followed by a 30-10 loss to England). But a lack of NRL talent could hurt them against the southern hemisphere teams at the World Cup.