Without a doubt, Australia are the strongest rugby league nation in the world. The National Rugby League (NRL) is a class above England’s Super League – although the British sides are catching up. The influx of Australians now plying their trade in Super League has helped to develop the game over in England and Wayne Bennett’s men will be quietly confident of pushing Australia close at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.
This year is a bit different. In 2013, England hosted the competition but Australia, Papa New Guinea and New Zealand will all host games throughout the tournament. There will be more travelling this time around but it gives the opportunity for rugby league supporters across the Oceanic region to watch their team in action. Home advantage really doesn’t matter to the Kangaroos; they are capable of winning the competition on home soil or on foreign land. In this area of the world, rugby league is a religion rather than a sport.
Papua New Guinea's Ase Boas calls for PNG national holiday after PNG Hunters claim @IntrustSuperCup.
— RLWC2017 (@RLWC2017) September 25, 2017
During the last World Cup, Australia were imperious at both ends of the pitch. Offensively, nobody scored more points (234) than the Kangaroos whilst they were rock solid on the defensive side of the field, too; conceding just two points in the knockout stages. In the final, Australia ran out rampant winners against New Zealand, eventually winning 34-2 in front of a mesmerised crowd. On their day, they are simply too good and too strong for anybody.
You only need to look at the experienced Melbourne Storm trio to see exactly what the likes of New Zealand and England are up against. Cooper Cronk, Cameron Smith and Billy Slater have all stood at the top of rugby league’s pecking order for the best part of a decade but it is time to sign off. Australia’s current crop of younger stars owe them another World Cup triumph as they look to end on a high. At the time of writing, Australia are as short as 1/4 in the rugby league betting markets ahead of the competition – understandable given their clear advantage over their rivals. It will take a major collapse for the Kangaroos to fall short and Mal Meninga will be quietly confident of leading his troops to an eight success in nine World Cup events. Australia’s record in recent decades says it all; the Kangaroos are a sure-fire thing.
England may be Australia’s biggest rivals this time around and Meninga will use the group stage clash in Melbourne on October 27 as a way of testing England’s resolve. In 2013, the two rugby league giants faced off in the group stages and Australia came out on top in what was a fairly close contest. This time, England are stronger and it could go either way; the hosts will be hoping that the Melbourne crowd play their part.
Australia have reached the World Cup final in each of the last nine editions of the event and another venture to the showpiece looks likely. For the Kangaroos to fall short, Meninga’s men will need to have an off day whilst New Zealand or England perform at their best. In sport, nothing is a given but it will take something special for Australia to relinquish their grip on the World Cup trophy.