Send us news by text, start your message Leigh News and your send photos and videos to 80360
WORLD CUP PREVIEW: The 2013 contenders
9:02am Thursday 24th October 2013 in Centurions
PREDICTABILITY has been a feature of past Rugby League World Cups – but this one should be the most competitive yet.
USA’s 22-18 warm-up win against fourth-ranked France in Toulouse on Friday followed by Italy’s 15-14 defeat of England 24 hours later could be indicative of that.
While at this stage it is difficult to look beyond holders New Zealand or favourites Australia as eventual winners, don’t write off England to turn around their weekend disaster, and pick any one of half a dozen other countries to be the likely fourth semi-finalist.
Sports editor Mike Parsons checks out the contenders…
AUSTRALIA: Winners of the last World Cup on these shores in 2000, they have the classiest backline. Hooker and captain Cameron Smith pulls the strings with Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk, while full back Billy Slater never fails to excite. Up front, Paul Gallen, Sam Thaiday and Andrew Fifita are a handful.
COOK ISLANDS: Coached by ex-St Helens forward David Fairleigh, they will be fierce opposition for Wales and USA in Group D. Their ‘war’ with Tonga at Leigh Sports Village on November 5 is a potential match of the tournament. Super League inclusions Anthony Gelling, Keith Lulia and Zeb Taia strengthen their case.
ENGLAND: An opening win against Australia could be crucial. The winners at Cardiff would be favourites to win Group A and potentially miss New Zealand in the semi finals. After one of their worst ever losses against Italy, it is time for England’s stars of Super League and the NRL to gel and prove they are world class.
FIJI: Ex-Brisbane and Australia Test star Petero Civoniceva is captain, while Daryl Millard is known from his time with Catalan Dragons and Wakefield. Fiji, semi-finalists in 2008, have more players with World Cup experience than any other competing nation, but newcomer Marika Koroibete could be the star turn.
FRANCE: They should do better than their record shows at international level, with Catalan Dragons players making up the bulk of their squad. Wakefield boss Richard Agar is now in charge of trying to get the best out of an underperforming squad that includes aggressive packmen Remi Casty, Olivier Elima and Jamal Fakir.
IRELAND: With tough Group A assignments against England and Australia, it seems a win against Fiji is a must to reach the quarter finals. They have workhorses in Tyrone McCarthy and Dave Allen, while Wigan’s Grand Final winner Pat Richards is a points machine. Success will depend on what their NRL players bring to the table.
ITALY: With a three-quarter line of NRL talent, including Grand Final winning Anthony Minichiello and Aiden Guerra, they are not here to make up the numbers. Saints’ Anthony Laffranchi is the only squad member with past World Cup experience (with Australia), while Wolves’ James Saltonstall could make a name for himself.
NEW ZEALAND: The holders know how to lift their performances for the big occasion, and the late inclusion of Sonny Bill Williams boosts their chances this time around. They have explosive power across the field, half back Shaun Johnson is an exciting talent and Isaac Luke is frightening when his eyes pop out during the Haka.
PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Exciting to watch, very physical and full of tricks. Getting their tackling technique correct is key to their chances, as they have been prone to concede costly penalties. The explosive running of Paul Aiton, Jason Chan, Jessie Joe Nandye (Parker) and Menzie Yere is well known to British audiences.
SAMOA: Ben Roberts will lead them round the field well and they have a strong second-row pairing in Sia Soliola and Harrison Hansen. Giant Saints recruit Mose Masoe’s big hits will bring ‘ooohs’ and ‘aahs’ out of the crowds, but Samoa’s issues are in defence. They need to be tighter around the ruck in order to compete.
SCOTLAND: They will need their Super League and NRL stars to bring the best out of the Championship players around them. In Man of Steel Danny Brough and Brisbane Broncos half back Peter Wallace they have strong guidance. New Wolves signing Matty Russell could be a lethal weapon at full back.
TONGA: Their strongest World Cup squad to date and in confident mood after dismantling Samoa earlier this year. All except one of their players are aligned with top-flight clubs. Adapting to the Workington surroundings against Scotland without acclimatising through a warm-up game could go against them on Tuesday.
USA: Arrived at their Park Royal home in Warrington and training base in Widnes having caused a stir with a warm-up victory against France in Toulouse. They did so with their most experienced players missing. USA’s test will be producing back-to-back performances at a level of intensity they are not used to.
WALES: Iestyn Harris has a strong pack and will need his big men to shine in order to give the backs a chance. The squad has no shortage of hard workers and solid professionals, but will be relying on Warrington’s Rhys Evans and Rhys Williams, along with Bradford’s Elliot Kear, to deliver some much-needed flair.
Comments are closed on this article.