LONDON, ENGLAND – With the RLWC just days away from kick off, Rugby Wrap Up presents a two-part series on the possible winners and the probable winners of the Rugby League World Cup – the code’s showcase event. Standards of quality have skyrocketed in the rugby league world in the last four years, with many formerly unknown international teams acquiring, through the liberal representation rules, numerous NRL stars from Australia and New Zealand. This loophole means that many teams, whilst they may not have turned into contenders, will certainly provide singularly difficult competition for the established nations. With that, here’s our 2013 Rugby League World Cup Preview: The Possibles:
And so to the infinite possibilities of……well the Possibles. Leading the charge will be England. Yes yes, I know thousands of RWU have just hit the roof in consternation but seriously? England are strong of that there is no doubt, on their day they can field one of the meanest and biggest packs in the world. The NRL experience of the Burgess brothers and James Graham provides England with serious ballast up the middle of the ground. Supplementing this will be the evergreen Jamie Peacock, Gareth Hock and the always outstanding, Ben Westwood. The problem comes in the backs. There is firepower of that there can be no question, but the names of Leroy Cudjoe, Josh Charnley and Kallum Watkins do not jump off the page as much as the vast majority of the Australian and Kiwi sides. The halves are strong, with Sinfield, Burrow and Rangi Chase all available. But should England make the semi finals, the problem is that they may well play New Zealand. It will all hang on their first game against Australia, win that and we may see them in the final. Lose that and the hope of them winning the World Cup is extinguished at the prospect of having to play both New Zealand and Australia in the knockout stages.
Jammed full of NRL superstars, the Samoans are a scary prospect. Most NRL teams have a handful of these heavy hitting, unrelenting monsters. But an entire team of Samoans? Pain. Lots of pain!
With a pack based on the experience of David Fa’alogo, Harrison Hansen, Mose Masoe and Iosia Soliola the Samoans will have the platform for their backs to run riot. And what a back line! Daniel Vidot, BJ Leilua, Antonio Winterstein and whiz kid Anthony Milford will cause havoc with opposition defences. Look for the Samoans when the knockout stages come around, they have the quality to go the distance it’s just a case of whether they believe it.
Much like the Samoans the Tongans are a formidable outfit. With perhaps a tad less experience and star power than the Samoans, they make up for it with unbelievable speed. Mahe Fonua, Glen Fisi’iahi, Konrad Hurrell, Jorge Taufua and Daniel Tupou are just a few. The experience of captain Brent Kite will be crucial in keeping cool heads on their shoulders. There is a bloody minded element to their pack, Willie Manu, Fuifui Moimoi, Micky Paea, Sika Manu and Jason Taumalolo are all forwards who do not say much off the pitch. But permit somebody to run at them with the ball and the sound can be heard from the bleachers.
As for the rest? The Italians have shown with their pre-season victory against England they have the players and mentality to hang with the big boys, they have fewer NRL players than the Samoans or Tongans, but those that they do have are of an outstanding calibre (i.e Anthony Minichello and Kade Snowden). The French team will be fielding a close knit group of players as most of them come from Catalan Dragons, their chemistry will be impressive but against the big teams there is a strong chance they will get steamrollered out wide.
Unfortunately for the mighty, all-conquering, surrender-monkey-annihilating USA Tomahawks, this year will not be their year. The main aim will be to make a statement of intent, much as they have done with their rugby union sides. A smattering of NRL players in Junior Paulo, Eddy Pettybourne and Clint Newton will give them credibility and more importantly media coverage.
Stay tuned for Thursday’s preview of the Probable Winners of the World Cup… can you guess who they are yet?
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