Beware the defending champs: rugby league World Cup preview

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    Next year will see another edition of rugby league’s World Cup and, as the Kangaroos will fully appreciate after the boil-over of 2008, it is far from a fait accompli.

    Since that famous Kiwis victory in the final of the last World Cup, the New Zealanders pinched the 2010 Four Nations trophy with a wonderful last-ditch try and pushed the Kangaroos all the way in the one-off Test this year in Townsville.

    New Zealand rugby league has benefitted enormously over the past decade or so from having a team in the world’s premier rugby league competition, as the Kiwis’ fitness, smarts and big game experience have improved dramatically.

    The Kangaroos should expect another stern challenge from our trans-Tasman cousins. As has been the case for much of the last century, Australia is the number one team in international rugby league, but the Kiwis are only a touch away and can match it with the Aussies on their day.

    The English have gone through something of a revival, with a decent showing in last year’s Four Nations and victory in their tri series this year (albeit against weak opposition).

    They have developed a solid squad, particularly with their forward pack, which boasts the likes of Gareth Ellis, James Graham, Sam Burgess and Chris Heighington – these names will get the attention of anyone.

    Add to these forward backs such as Ryan Hall and Sam Tomkins and you start to see the components of a handy football side. England simply lack the exposure to the fast-paced NRL game the Kangaroos and Kiwis benefit from and, against the Kangaroos in particular, this has proven costly.

    England can have realistic hopes of knocking off the Kiwis but the Aussies may still be a bridge too far. But as increasing numbers of English players get a taste of NRL, the English national team will see their prospects improve.

    Among the rest, the most competitive will likely be the French, Papua New Guinea and Samoa – but few will be expecting any of these to be holding up any silverware at the tournament’s conclusion.

    Ultimately, it will be a two-horse race between Australia and New Zealand with England hoping to pull off an ambush or two.

    A top Kangaroo line-up may look like this;

    1. Billy Slater
    2. Darius Boyd
    3. Greg Inglis
    4. Josh Morris
    5. Brent Tate
    6. Johnathan Thurston
    7. Cooper Cronk
    8. Matt Scott
    9. Cameron Smith (c)
    10. James Tamou
    11. Ryan Hoffman
    12. Paul Gallen
    13. Greg Bird

    14. Ben Barba
    15. David Shillington
    16. Tony Williams
    17. David Taylor

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    The Crowd Says (75)

    • December 5th 2012 @ 8:51am
      james said | December 5th 2012 @ 8:51am | ! Report

      I don’t think Taylor will make the side but it is still an amazing team.

      as always I’m backing the underdog Kiwi’s to win but I’m looking forward to watching Italy and PNG play.

    • December 5th 2012 @ 9:04am
      Michael said | December 5th 2012 @ 9:04am | ! Report

      Too many NSWelshmen in that team.

    • December 5th 2012 @ 9:49am
      jus de couchon said | December 5th 2012 @ 9:49am | ! Report

      True , I doubt the All Blacks would be regarded so highly if the Wallabies had been able to acsess its best rugby players over the years. If I was an All Black supporter Id be greatful for the NRL.

      • December 5th 2012 @ 11:09am
        Mr Taylor said | December 5th 2012 @ 11:09am | ! Report

        Why would they? The All Blacks will always be number one even if the NRL players were available in the past. Its in their blood. I didn’t know Maori and Pacific islanders were living in Australia for over 100 years.

        • December 5th 2012 @ 1:58pm
          Renegade said | December 5th 2012 @ 1:58pm | ! Report

          And the Kangaroos have been number one for just as long….What’s your point?

        • December 5th 2012 @ 2:35pm
          Ra said | December 5th 2012 @ 2:35pm | ! Report

          bro, we were putting hangi down in this land over 6000 years ago. The next time you up Weipa check out the locals, they still do it the old way

        • December 5th 2012 @ 3:32pm
          Mr Taylor said | December 5th 2012 @ 3:32pm | ! Report

          My point exactly and lets leave it at that. The all blacks and the kangaroo’s are best teams in their sport.

      • Roar Guru

        December 5th 2012 @ 2:25pm
        The Bush said | December 5th 2012 @ 2:25pm | ! Report

        Not sure what this has to do with the article.

        In any event, I doubt it – the All Blacks where better than the Wallabies/Australia long before Rugby League was around. The 1905 All Blacks team was unbeatable and New Zealand beat us nearly all the time in the 19th Century – no NRL to blame then.

    • December 5th 2012 @ 9:55am
      Renegade said | December 5th 2012 @ 9:55am | ! Report

      You mustn’t be familiar with a lot of the players within the England team or you’re just undermining England massively…..I think they’re a big chance.

      They will have at least 6 or 7 proven NRL players in their squad with the absolute best of the super league to complement them in Sam Tomkins, Kevin Sinfield, Ryan Hall, etc.
      England are on-par, if not better than the kiwis in my opinion and i don’t think anyside has prepared better for the World Cup next year.

      As for our kangaroos, well the side you’ve posted is damn strong. I would swap Taylor with Watmough….and we’re just about unbeatable however i thought the same thing in 2008.

    • December 5th 2012 @ 10:09am
      Steve said | December 5th 2012 @ 10:09am | ! Report

      I’m not sure about England. France are horrendous at the moment. In fact I would say they are at their worst for as long as I’ve been watching them and that’s close to 30 years. England did a job on them but they always seem to. I still think NZ and Aus will still be too strong. As for the rest who knows. Samoa maybe. PNG are really struggling. They just don’t have the young guys coming through like they did 20 years ago. Sadly the days of Gene, Bai, Lam, Mamando, O’reilly, Wiltshire, Mom, Payo etc have long gone.

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    • Roar Guru

      December 5th 2012 @ 11:39am
      Mantis said | December 5th 2012 @ 11:39am | ! Report

      I doubt Dave Taylor and Ryan Hoffman will be picked, although i do rate Hoffman.

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