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RLWC 2017 preview: Wales seeking a crusade to the knockout stage

Can Italy recapture the highs of defeating Wales at home in 2013? (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Roar Guru
26th October, 2017

Wales’ 2013 RLWC campaign was considered a major failure by insiders.

The Welsh had qualified for their first World Cup in 13 years and were joint co-hosts, which meant all their pool games were being played at home. Yet, they failed to win a single game in a group they were expected to top.

The Dragons are aiming to return to the quality that Welsh sides produced in the late 90’s, leading to two consecutive World Cup semi-final appearances.

Wales Dragons

RLIF World Ranking: 9
Best Result: Semi Finalists (1995, 2000)
2013 Finish: 12th
2017 RLWC Odds: $1001

The Welsh have a strong history in rugby league that dates back to 1908 when they scored a victory over Albert Baskerville’s touring All Golds side in their very first Test match.

Since then, Wales has been very successful in European Cups, having won the championship 7 times since 1935. Their World Cup performance at home in 2013 was certainly forgettable and the following year they continued their losing streak – failing to win a single game during the 2014 European Cup.

John Kear took on the reigns with the hope he could turn the tide for Wales and see them climb back up the rugby league summit. In 2015, just 12 months later, the Dragons went through the 2015 European Cup undefeated and claimed their seventh championship.

Kear has managed to positively impact the national team and will be hoping he can deliver a finals appearance at RLWC 2017.


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Team Line Up
1. Elliot Kear
2. Rhys Williams
3. Michael Channing
4. Andrew Gay
5. Regan Grace
6. Courtney Davies
7. Matt Seamark
8. Craig Kopczak (c)
9. Steve Parry
10. Phillip Joseph
11. Rhodri Lloyd
12. Ben Morris
13. Morgan Knowles

14. Matty Fozard
15. Sam Hopkins
16. Ben Evans
17. Chester Butler

Squad Members: Josh Ralph, Dolton Grant, Christiaan Roets, Matthew Barron, Danny Ansell, Gavin Bennion, Joe Burke,

The Welsh side is made up largely of individuals plying their trade in the UK lower divisions, with the squad containing a sprinkling of Super League players. Veteran Craig Kopczak will lead the side once again and forms a formidable front row pairing with Salford teammate and deputy Phillip Joseph.

The backline hasn’t experienced many big games and will rely heavily on London Broncos pair Elliot Kear and Rhys Williams, who both got their taste of World Cup competition in 2013.

Key Player
The skipper Craig Kopzcak is the player who has been exposed to a higher quality of rugby league than the rest of the squad, with close to 300 games playing in Super League sides.

His experienced leadership and on-field go-forward will be vital to Wales’ success in 2017.


Fixtures and Opponents
All times AEDT

Opponent Venue Kick-Off
Papua New Guinea ONSF Stadium, Port Moresby Sat. Oct 28, 4pm
Fiji Townsville Stadium Sun. Nov 5, 7:30pm
Ireland Perth Rectangular Stadium Sun. Nov 12, 6:30pm

Key Match
Every match in 2017 will be a significant one for Wales, they certainly don’t have an easy draw, however, there’s none more important than their opening game against Papua New Guinea.

The Dragons never clawed back momentum after their opening night loss to Italy at Millennium Stadium four years ago. This time they need to start well and will have to do it in one of the most incredible atmospheres our game has seen.

RLWC 2017 Prospects
Only the top placed team in Pool C will advance to the quarterfinals meaning every match is vital including the intergroup game where Wales have drawn Fiji.

The Welsh would have to defy the odds to get through to the quarterfinals stage, however, their underdog victory at the 2015 European Cup shows they are capable of overcoming the challenges they will have to face at this World Cup.