2013 Rugby League World Cup Preview

It is a special time for rugby league fans as they are now treated to an extension of the season with the RLWC. In recent years, this concept has struggled to gain the support of fans and sponsors; and as a result, it fell by the wayside. The last competition of this calibre to be held was in Australia in 2008, when the Kiwi’s were victorious over the Kangaroos in a major upset. That was only the second since 2000 and majority of this has to do with the blown out score lines and one-sided contests between the superior and minnow nations. Fans became board of the matches and many different solutions were thrown around. Now in 2013, the concept appears to be revitalised and the popularity is surprisingly high. It will take place over in the UK and now that the competition has been officially opened, attention turns to the action that will take place on the field between the 14 nations. Already there are several storylines running through the competition that will undoubtedly come to the fore at one stage or another during this competition. The NRL has a high representation within the tournament and that is sure to boost the quality of rugby league, along with the players from the Super League and the “unknown” players from the lesser nations. It does appear as though the RLWC will be a forgone conclusion up until the Semi Finals, however the trial games prior to this week suggest that there could be a few surprises in store. We are going to have to wait and see and to help you along the way; I will be previewing the key games throughout as well as posting tips on others on my twitter feed.

Group A

Australia – $1.41

The deserving favourites of the competition but the price offered on them is ridiculous. Fact is, there are two other teams within the competition that are genuine chances of winning it all. The Kangaroos have earned themselves the tag of favourites though; they have won 9 of the 13 Cups contested. They will probably make it all the way to the Finals but once they are there, anything can happen. The calibre of player that is within their team outweighs most and the hardest problem for them will be promoting harmony between the NSW and QLD players. There has been a lot written recently about this issue but the players are the first to admit that there are now no such issues within this team. On top of this, opposition teams will lift to another level when playing them, as they are aware of their talent that they possess. They will have the class to beat most teams and outside of their opening match against England, they may not face another tough game until the semis. Don’t take the short odds on offer for them to win the competition just yet, that price could very well drift due to the performance of other nations.

Key Players = Cameron Smith & Jonathan Thurston

Prediction = Finalists

England – $9 

There is a lot of pressure on the hosts as they attempt to reach the Final for the first time on home soil. Things appeared to be falling into place for them with the fitness of their squad and form of players surfacing at the right time. That was all until they were beaten last week by Italy in a warm up match. Do not look into that performance too much though, it said a lot more about the Italians than the English and they will only use that as motivation for the coming games. It is hard to disagree with the statement by Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens that they will be “embarrassed” by that performance and will be out with a point to prove. They have what it takes but are a little short of complete talent across the field. Their big stars will aim to compensate for this and encourage the entire team onto better performances. It will be interesting to see how this team handles the pressure and it just may play into their hand that there will be a few other distractions taking place in the country at the same time. You will have clear indication of how they will go following their opening match against the Aussies and by that stage, I will make clearer call on their chances.

Key Players = Sam Tomkins & the Burgess brothers

Prediction = Semi finalists

Fiji – $81 

The Fijians have always had the size and physicality to match any team they come up against but are continuously hampered by their lack of direction on the field. It will be no different for them this year as they will take the field with a very strong pack of forwards, that will provide a useful platform for their halves and outside backs to build upon. The only problem here is that they do not have a player that is capable of putting them in commanding situation during a game. They will find it difficult to compete with the superior teams in the competition in this area and while I am tipping them to make it to the quarters, their run will end there.

Key Players = AkuilaUate, Tariq Sims &PeteroCivoniceva

Prediction = Quarter Finalists

Ireland – $251 

The Irish are the favourites to end at the bottom of this very tough group and looking at their opponents, it does seem likely. However the Irish have proven themselves to be a tough obstacle in the past and this side will be up for any challenge. They have a few wise heads within their team and coach Mark Ashton will be hoping that Liam Finn can step up to the plate and lead this team around from the halves. It was a close call for the Irish to even get to this stage; they only got through following a 78th minute field goal against Lebanon. Unfortunately, the tough task ahead of them will prove too difficult in the long run and they should finish at the bottom of the group.

Key Players = Pat Richards & Liam Finn

Prediction = Group Stage

Group B 

New Zealand – $3.75 

The Kiwis chances were boosted following the decision by the NZRL to include superstar SBW in their squad. There were plenty of league fans that disagreed with this decision as the team was already submitted but it is hard to argue with them considering the quality that we saw from him this season for the Roosters. Better still, the Kiwis will have a point to prove, as they are the reigning champions looking to defend their crown. Similar to the Kangaroos, they have a whole host of players across the field that will cause problems for their opponents. In recent years, they have struggled for a solid performance in “one off games” and the longer they are together, the more they excel as a team. Not only do they have a strong and physical team, they have a very smart pair of halves that will be looking to assert their dominance on the competition early on.

Key Players = SBW, Kieran Foran& Isaac Luke

Prediction = Finalists

France – $501 

It is surprising to see the French at such a long price compared to a few other teams in the competition; you think that they would demand more respect than them. However what appears to be a relatively strong team, can easily come apart at the seams once things begin to unfold. They are resting a lot of their hopes upon the players from the Catalans Dragons, which play in the Super League. They are not coming of the best of seasons in 2013 and the job ahead of them is going to be firmly on the shoulders of Thomas Bosc. To put that amount of pressure on one player will be difficult for anyone to handle and the fact that their forwards may be outmuscled in the middle of the field may just indicate how little of an impact that they are going to have on this competition.

Key Players = Thomas Bosc

Prediction = Quarter Finalists

PNG – $101 

The Kumuls have been on the cusp of international rugby league for some time now and such is the popularity of the sport within the country, it is surprising that they are not stronger. Things have not gone to plan for them so far and for every step they take forward, they take two back with their play on the field. Still, they have quality players within their squad that have the potential to cause a few upsets within this competition. Ultimately, it will come down to whether or not they are able to overcome the Samoans for a spot in the Quarter Finals. They have what it takes, although having two “make-shift” halves steering them around the park may be their downfall.

Key Players = Paul Aiton, David Mead & Ray Thompson

Prediction = Group Stage

Samoa – $101

The Samoans are one team within this competition that I believe will shock a lot of people. Like a few other sides, they have promised so much for some time now but have been unable to deliver when it matters most. This year, they appear to have the right balance within their side that should be able to breed success. Along with the power of their forwards, they have speed to burn on the edges and a few youngsters that know how to find their way to the try line. They also have the added advantage of Matt Parish coaching their team and he is going to be able to construct a game plan that will trouble their opponents continuously throughout their matches.

Key Players = Kylie Leuluai, Anthony Milford & Masada Iosefa

Prediction = Semi Finalists

Group C 

Tonga – $101 

The Tongans have promised so much for so long now and have been unable to deliver. They, like the Samoans, give so much to the NRL and Super League that it is almost criminal that they are yet to taste any credible success at this level. This year, their hopes will rest on whether or not they can overcome the Italians. Their young side is full of talent but they will need an experienced head to get them around the field. If they can find this is their opening match, they are going to prove hard to stop for the other teams on their level. You can be sure that their forwards will be difficult for any side to hold in the middle of the field and the outside backs must find the right formula to support them.

Key Players = Jason Taumololo, Daniel Tupou&KonradHurrell

Prediction = Group Stage

Scotland – $251 

The Scots have flown “under the radar” of most rugby league fans in recent years but they are certainly worth some thought. They will pin their hopes upon Danny Brough in the forwards to inspire the rest of the team to follow him into battle. Not only that, their coach Steve McCormack will be at the helm trying to plot the downfall of his opponents. If they were in Group D, I would like them to progress to the Quarter Finals, but such is their grouping this year, they may just find it beyond their inexperienced side to progress any further.

Key Players = Peter Wallace & Danny Brough

Prediction = Group Stage

Italy – $101 

The Italians caught the attention of the rugby league world last week as they upset the English side 15-14 in horrendous conditions. As I have stated above, that victory said a lot more about this team than it did their opponents and they have announced themselves as ready for this competition. They have a host of NRL experience over the field and that is going to serve them well in the tight games. The Tongans will be standing in the way of progressing any further and facing Wales in the cross-group contest will not make things any easier for them. However they appear to have the best chance of winning the group and perhaps surprising another team in the quarters.

Key Players = Anthony Minichiello, Kade Snowden & Aidan Guerra

Prediction = Quarter Finalists

Group D 

Cook Islands – $501 

Being a collection of small island nations, the Cook Islands will have a host of talent to call upon. In saying that, they will not be bursting at the seams with quality rugby league players. Being in Group D will give them the opportunity of progressing further in this competition and they will fancy themselves a genuine chance. They have a few players within their team that are reliable “first graders”, but their success will evidently rely on the fact that these players can step up and take control of each game.

Key Players = Dylan Napa & Isaac John

Prediction = Quarter Finalists  

USA – $801

This is the first time that the Tomahawks will feature in this tournament and it has been a long road for them to get here. They were able to beat Jamaica and South Africa to get into this situation and will be hoping that they are much more than “whipping boys” for the stronger teams. It has been a decade of progressive development to get to this point but the fact is that they will find it difficult to go any further than the group stages. They will put up a fight within Group D, yet will lack any direction with a genuine rugby league “brain” steering this ship around the field. If they can lure other sportsman away from more popular sports within their country, there is no telling how well they would be able to perform. For now, they will have to fight very hard to trouble most teams.

Key Players = Junior Paulo& Ryan McGoldrick

Prediction = Group Stage 

Wales – $501 

The Welsh have a proud rugby league history that they will look to build upon throughout this tournament. Not only that, they will have the chance to play some of the games in front of their home fans. Several players within their team have nominated to play for Wales over England and that has only boosted their chances. They were unable to qualify for the 2008 Cup and will see a chance of winning their group. Standing in their way of progressing to the later rounds will be a tough match up against Italy. If they can overcome that along with their group matches, they could very well find themselves staying in this tournament longer than expected.

Key Players = Lloyd White & Tyson Frizzel

Prediction = Group Stage 

Author

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Scooby

Hey guys, i'm Scooby! I have followed Rugby League since I was young enough to watch it and growing up in Sydney, it was inevitable. I will always make it my business to watch all 8 NRL fixtures per week and follow it with more than just passion. During my playing career, I have played at several representative levels, with and against current players. I began writing previews on NRL games early on in 2012 and really found a passion within this. I enjoy listening to various people and their opinions on the game, and then forming my own. Coupled together with another passion, gambling, I soon learnt that there was a market out there for more than the rugby league diehards. Hopefully I can pass on my knowledge of the game to help you win some cash.

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