Young Wigan Warrior is 'next Sonny Bill Williams'
Rugby league fans will get a glimpse of what England’s World Cup squad might look like in 2025, including a player dubbed the next Sonny Bill Williams, when the Knights take on Jamaica at Castleford on Friday night.
Among the crop of rising stars on show will be 20-year-old Londoner Kai Pearce-Paul, who burst onto the Super League scene with Wigan in 2021, demonstrating the ball-handling skills reminiscent of the all-time great New Zealander.
The man who first noticed the similarities with the dual-code international was Pearce-Paul’s older brother Kameron, a centre with London Skolars.
“He’s been saying that since I was young, that I’d be the next Sonny Bill Williams,” said the Warriors second rower, who is an imposing 6ft 5in.
“I like to offload, a similar style to Sonny Bill. He’s a great, great player, someone I looked up to when I was young.”
The Bromley-born Pearce-Paul, whose younger brother Kaden is with Saracens, played his amateur rugby league at Croydon Hurricanes from where he joined London Broncos’ academy and was signed on a four-year contract by Wigan in 2019.
He made his Super League debut against St Helens just over 12 months ago and in 2021 made 19 appearances, 13 of them in the starting line-up.
“Coming in as a young boy, I never expected to get so many games,” he said. “My coach believed in me and threw me into a situation where it was all new, playing with the big boys, but I felt like I went well.”
Pearce-Paul’s Wigan team-mate Sam Halsall is also poised to make his England Knights debut and will do so with the memory of his late father at the forefront of his mind.
Dave Halsall, a Wigan fan who encouraged his son to take up rugby league, died suddenly in June at the age of 47.
Sam went on to play for Newcastle Thunder, where he was on loan, a few days later because that is what his father would have wanted and he will be thinking of him when he runs out at the Mend-a-Hose Jungle.
“It’s sad that he’s not here to see it,” he said. “He’s been with me since the first day I played rugby. That gives me more reason to carry on and do what I’m doing.
“It’s been the worst year I’ve ever had in my life but rugby has taken me away from all that to be honest. When you’re at training all day, you don’t have time to think so rugby has been a distraction for me.”
Halsall returned from his loan spell at Newcastle and played in four of the Warriors’ last five matches of the season, doing enough to catch the eye of the national selectors.
“I finished the season quite well but the call-up was a shock to be honest,” he said.
“If I’d have played one game I would have been happy but I ended up playing eight which is a big achievement. Hopefully I’ve got my foot in the door now.”
The Knights will be captained by Warrington hooker Danny Walker in a match that doubles up as the testimonial for Jamaica centre Jordan Turner.
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