Written by Tom Larken and Chris Gray.
The Rugby League World Cup kicks off tomorrow at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, where England face Australia.
From the 26th October to the 30th November, 14 teams will battle it out to see who can become World Champions.
LincSport takes a look at the contenders.
Odds on favourites to win and desperate to avenge their defeat in the 2008 final to New Zealand, this old Aussie side is looking to win in England. With many of the key players the wrong side of 30, for many it is their last chance.
They face England on the first day of competition at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday, and if England are to have a chance, they will need to be at their best.
Coached by Tim Sheens and captained by Cameron Smith, the Australia’s will be hoping to not choke under the pressure of being the favourite.
A home World Cup is a once in a life time event for professional sportsman and the possibility of a semi-final at Wembley and a final at Old Trafford against either Australia or New Zealand is a massive incentive to perform.
With 3 teams out of 4 going through in England’s group, they shouldn’t struggle to qualify for the quarter finals but when the knockout phase starts, they will need key men Kevin Sinfield and Sam Tomkins to go above and beyond the call of duty.
England’s third and final opponent, Fiji, will be looking to match their semi-final appearance in the 2008 World Cup. Their eye-catching, exciting style of Rugby earned themselves a lot of fans in Australia 2008 and they will need to recapture that form to avoid a potential quarter final with New Zealand.
The decision of Petero Civoniceva to play for the country of his birth, rather than Australia, who he has played for 40 times, is a major boost to Fiji’s chance of qualifying from Group A.
In their third appearance at a world cup, Ireland, nicknamed ‘The Wolfhounds’ will certainly be looking to improve on their 2008 performance. Despite topping their group on points difference, Ireland failed to reach the semi finals, and were eliminated by Fiji in the quarter finals. Mark Aston will be coaching them, and Liam Finn is their captain.
France are by no means a push over.
The improvement of the Catalan Dragons in the Super League will play a key factor in their success, coupled with two of their group matches being played in front of a home crowd mean that the French side will be tough opponents.
France face New Zealand in Avignon, and in Perpignan they meet Samoa.
Papua New Guinea
Adrian Lam and Neville Costigan will be coaching and captaining Papa New Guinea at the tournament. Nicknamed The Kumuls they will be making their 6th appearance at a world cup.
After being placed in the ‘super group’ in 2008, PNG will be looking to better their result, and qualify for the quarter finals.
2013 marks the 4th appearance in the world cup for Samoa, who will be looking to make a mends for a 2008 World Cup performance, where they did not live up to fans and pundit’s expectations. Harrison Hansen captains the side, who are ranked 8th in the world, and Matt Parish is the coach.
The Kiwis enter the competition in Group B as second favourite for the cup, and second best team in the world. They are the current World Cup holders, and certainly won’t be willing to give their title away.
Samoa are the first opponents for the Kiwis, who certainly aren’t to be underestimated as a mid-card team. Simon Mannering will be their captaining their campaign to retain the trophy. Whilst Stephen Kearney will take charge as coach.
Tonga made their first appearance at a World Cup 18 years ago, in 1995, and from there have gone from strength to strength.
Tonga came close to knocking New Zealand out of the competition in their first time competing, losing by just one point. Tonga certainly aren’t a team to be underestimated, and at 4th favourites, hope of a semi final seems promising and certainly realistic for the side. Brent Kite captains them, whilst Charlie Tonga take the role of coach.
Marking their third appearance at a World Cup, Scotland will effectively be playing their tournament at home. The Bravehearts finished 8th last time around, and certainly will be looking to improve on their performance. Danny Brough is their captain, and Steve McCormack will be coaching the side.
Despite their staggering victory over England in a warm up match, the Italians are the second lowest ranked team in the competition and stand little, if any chance of causing an upset in the competition.
Drawn against Tonga and Scotland, they may stand a chance at getting out of their group but if Carlo Napolitano’s men make it any further, it’ll be a huge surprise.
They failed to qualify for the 2008 World Cup but the potential of having three games in Wales in a World Cup was too enticing for them to miss out on.
With three effectively home games against lower ranked sides such as Italy, USA and Cook Islands, with Lloyd White, Craig Kopczak, Jordan James in the side, Wales have perhaps the best chance possible to make it to the knock out stage.
Nicknamed ‘The Tomahawks”, USA have very little chance at causing an upset in this years World Cup.
In the distant past they have run teams like Australia close, but in all honesty, just getting to this stage is enough for the Americans.
The Cook Islands are made up of just 20,000 people across 15 islands. The lowest ranked team going in to the World Cup, they are certainly eager to impress. In their second appearance in a World Cup, David Fairleigh coaches the Kukis and Zeb Taia captains.
This year’s tournament is certainly shaping up to be a fierce contest, with games set to be tight, and teams fighting for a shot at glory.Tweet