With less than four weeks now until the Rugby League World Cup kicks off, here at Lovell Rugby we are casting our eye over the main contenders to see who are the favourites to triumph come the final on 30th November. Will Australia reign supreme once again and reclaim the title from Antipodean rivals New Zealand or can England take advantage of home support and return the trophy to the northern hemisphere for the first time since 1972?
With England being the hosts and their squad announced yesterday, we decided to start by looking at what it will take for them to break the stranglehold the southern hemisphere nations have on the sport and how they can go one better than being runners-up in 1995.
If you count England under the Great Britain structure then they have actually triumphed on three occasions, although you have to go back over forty years to 1972 for that success.
There is no doubt that all eyes will be on Sam Tomkins as the star of the England team. Having recently announced he will be departing the Super League for New Zealand shores next season, England’s record rugby league try scorer will be looking to show off his pedigree on the world stage. Of course there are twelve other players on the field and with captain as well as 2012 Golden Boot winner, Kevin Sinfield, leading the side then you couldn’t ask for a more experienced as well as passionate leader.
Elsewhere in the team and coach Steve McNamara has announced the three Burgess brothers in the 24-man squad. Having started their professional career with Bradford, the South Sydney based players become the first three brothers to be included in an England squad. Sam is joined by twins George and Tom who are in fact the only two uncapped players named amongst an experienced line-up which also only sees two other players based overseas in Australia – James Graham (Canterbury Bulldogs) and Gareth Widdop (Melbourne Storm).
Although nothing is won in the opening fixture of the tournament, England square up against Australia in what could well be a dress rehearsal for the final itself. Both teams will be looking to gain a psychological advantage and there will certainly be no love lost between two of sports greatest rival nations.
With their undoubted toughest fixture over with first, England also face Fiji and Ireland before the real business end of the competition begins with the knock-out stages. Should England win their group then they are most likely to face the Cook Islands in the next round but a runners-up finish and it could be anyone from Papua New Guinea, Samoa or France. One game at at a time but the home fans will be expecting a final spot at the very least as many see this as a three way competition between England, Australia and New Zealand.
England squad for the Rugby League World Cup:
Carl Ablett (Leeds), Tom Briscoe (Hull), George Burgess, Sam Burgess, Tom Burgess (all South Sydney), Rob Burrow (Leeds), Josh Charnley (Wigan), Rangi Chase (Castleford), Leroy Cudjoe (Huddersfield), Liam Farrell (Wigan), James Graham (Canterbury Bulldogs), Ryan Hall (Leeds), Zak Hardaker (Leeds), Chris Hill (Warrington), Gareth Hock (Widnes), Michael McIlorum (Wigan), Lee Mossop (Wigan), Sean O’Loughlin (Wigan), James Roby (St Helens), Kevin Sinfield (Leeds, capt), Sam Tomkins (Wigan), Kallum Watkins (Leeds), Ben Westwood (Warrington), Gareth Widdop (Melbourne).
The Rugby League World Cup runs from October 26th until 30th November, with fourteen nations contesting the tournament.
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