The major threats to take out the Rugby League World Cup

The major threats to take out the Rugby League World Cup

While it seems every Rugby League World Cup is billed as Australia’s to lose, this year’s tournament is the most competitive on paper in the history of the sport. With the emergence of international rugby league in recent years – there are a number of nations who could upset the applecart and come away victorious in the grand final at Old Trafford on November 19th.

With the World Cup kicking off this month, let’s dissect the five favourites to take out the most coveted international prize in the sport.

Australia – 8/15

For those who enjoy a rugby league bet – as expected – the Kangaroos enter as the pre-tournament favourites. Their star-studded line-up combined with their big-match experience ensure they will be incredibly difficult to beat – and if their opponents choose to give them too much respect as they so often have in the past – the Aussies have the talent to end games early.

Whether it be James Tedesco, Isaah Yeo, Valentine Holmes, Latrell Mitchell or Nathan Cleary – the Mal Meninga-coached side has firepower right across the pitch. However, their success this World Cup campaign will be dependent on their ability to build chemistry – as while they’re a collection of immensely gifted individuals – there are a number of members in the squad who will be playing alongside each other for the first time.

New Zealand – 10/3

When the Kiwis upset Australia at Suncorp Stadium to win the 2008 World Cup, many fans and pundits felt like New Zealand’s international rugby league team would go from strength to strength from that point forward. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. Inconsistency has plagued New Zealand, which has seen their two World Cup campaigns subsequent to their historic win end in disappointment.

After being beaten handily in the World Cup final 34-2 at the hands of Australia in 2013, the Kiwis followed that up with another poor showing in 2017 which saw them bow out in the semi-finals. However, this year is looking more promising, as they boast their strongest squad for more than a decade. Their calling card has traditionally been their forwards – and they have arguably the most intimidating and formidable pack in the tournament with the likes of Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Jesse Bromwich, James Fisher-Harris, Moses Leota, Brandon Smith, Joseph Tapine and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.

Additionally, the Kiwis will be buoyed by the inclusion of their fullback Joseph Manu, who was questionable heading into the World Cup after sustaining a calf injury whilst playing for the Sydney Roosters in September.

Samoa – 11/1

With a squad filled with a number of elite NRL and English Super League players, Samoa are one of the most improved teams in international rugby league over the past decade. Their ferocity in defence and creativity in attack has made them one of the favourites to take out this year’s World Cup – and you only need to take a look at their depth to see why. Their forward pack is strong with Martin Taupau, Jaydn Su’A, Josh Papalii and Junior Paulo expected to lead from the front – which will be accompanied by electric outside backs Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, Brian To’o and Jerome Luai to name a few.

Huddersfield Giants hooker Danny Levi will need to play an enormous role if the Samoans are to experience success this World Cup, and given the form he exhibited right throughout the English Super League this season – his teammates will be confident he can manage the pace of the game well out of dummy-half.

Tonga – 11/1

This Pacific Island nation’s rise up the international rugby league ranks really came to the fore in 2019 when they defeated Australia for the first time in history. With multiple State of Origin, NRL and English Super League players in their squad – Tonga are another team who could pose a threat come playoff time.

However, if you ask anyone who follows the game closely, they’ll likely tell you that Tonga only go as far as their star lock forward Jason Taumalolo takes them. The North Queensland Cowboy has well and truly established himself as the best forward in the game, and the onus will be on him to lead from the front if they are to have a deep run at this World Cup. While they are certainly not lacking in the middle, their Achilles Heel appears to be their backline – which could mean that points are hard to come by for the Mate Ma’a Tonga.

England 16/1

Despite only losing by six points in the World Cup final in 2017, England enter this year’s tournament as the fifth favourites. Coming in as underdogs could work in their favour this time around, and given there are still plenty of recognisable names in their squad – they have enough talent to challenge. If veterans Sam Tomkins, Elliot Whitehead and John Bateman can mesh well with the younger players in the squad, don’t be surprised if you see Shaun Wane’s men in the latter stages of the tournament.

Their captain Tomkins will be particularly pleased by the addition of versatile lock Victor Radley, who pledged his allegiance to England in July.