Today marks just 50 days until the start of the Rugby League World Cup as fourteen nations compete for the top honour of being crowned World Champions at Old Trafford on November 30th.
All eyes will certainly be on New Zealand as they enter the tournament as reigning champions, having beaten Australia in their own back yard and putting an end to their run of six consecutive titles. The Kangaroos will have been plotting their revenge for the past five years and will see anything less than returning as World Champions for a record tenth time as a failure by both their players and passionate fans.
Of course the competition is about much more than these two antipodean rivals as England fans will testify. On home soil, the hosts are seen as the only real threat to the Southern Hemisphere dominance and did defeat the Kiwis back in 2011 during the Four Nations tournament. With the likes of Sam Tomkins and Kevin Sinfield involved you can never rule out the trophy being adorned with red and white ribbons, with an opening encounter against Australia a mouth watering prospect which many see as a warm-up for the final itself.
Not that this should be seen as any indication but when the World Club Challenge was staged earlier this year between the Leeds Rhinos and Melbourne Storm, the trophy did return Down Under and so the hosts will want to settle the score on the biggest international stage.
Elsewhere in the tournament and Fiji look the strongest nation representing the Pacific Islands whilst the Cook Islands will be making only their second appearance at the Rugby League World Cup and are sure to win over much support. Italy and the United States are also making their debut amongst rugby league’s elite.
With fourteen nations competing, this is also the 14th staging of the Rugby League World Cup. Whilst England stages the majority of the games, the competition also takes in group matches in Wales and France so fans there will also have the opportunity to cheer on their team.
So make a date in your diary for Saturday 26th October for five weeks of big hits, tight shorts and men of steel as the Rugby League World Cup comes to town.
As excitement mounts, make sure you are all kitted out as Lovell Rugby is home to a collection or replica rugby league shirts and clothing to show off your support with both on and off the field.