World Cup 2008 – Group A Preview

When the Super Group was announced there were many different reactions.

Some said PNG was hard done by, and its hard to disagree. England immeditaly felt confident, Australia said the group would be there while New Zealand was too busying falling to pieces to care.

The Super Grouping works really well for the Rugby League World Cup. You just can not afford to lose a game in this system because even PNG is capable of getting enough wins to knock England of New Zealand out of the Semi Finals.

So lets take a look at the teams:

They are the defending champions and while everyone has been talking about how good other teams are, few have talked about how amazing the Australia squad is. There are no weaknesses in the side and it has great depth.

Australia always play well when it counts, and they have a history of stepping up to another level when its World Cup time. In the last two World Cups Australia won, first by only selecting half of the players available in 1995, and then by wiping away the competition in 2000 including a thrashing they handed to New Zealand in the final.

So its not like this is a one off game, this is an Australian side focused on nothing less then dominating the World Cup.

They won’t be beaten.

New Zealand
I’ve said for a long time now that I’ve watched the New Zealand sides run into the 2008 World Cup and it reminds me of their disastrous run into the 2000 World Cup.

In 1999 they went within minutes of beating Australia in that years Tri Series. In 2005 They actually did beat Australia heading into the Tri Series. Between those good performances you know what New Zealand did leading into the following World Cup? Nothing.

Both times Australia brutally dominated them every time they played and even last year Great Britain managed to wipe the floor with the Kiwi’s. New Kiwi coaches Stephen Kearney and Wayne Bennett have to do a miricle to turn things around.

This is a very good New Zealand side with a lot of mobility, much better endurnace than prevous New Zealand teams and some talent in the halves which is very important if New Zealand are going to make an impact.

I think Australia has their number, they won’t beat Australia in this World Cup. I also think Samoa and Tonga could push them enough to get an upset if they make the semi finals.

Having said that, I think New Zealand will be a rude shock for England, who no doubt feel they have the wood over the Kiwis, while PNG will be tough but they should win.

New Zealands goal must be nothing less then making the final. If they miss the final this World Cup has been a failure.

Well I’ll say one thing about England, they are confident. They have a few good wins under their belts and seem to have convinced themselves that a lack of confidence is all thats stopped them from beating Australia over the last 30 years.

The problem England has is that for all its confidence, it doesn’t back it up with talent.

The English backline is the worst I have ever seen, and thats saying quite a bit. As the British press were quick to talk down the performances of Greg Inglis, Darren Lockyer and Israel Folau over the season, they didn’t take a second to realize that Mark Calderwood and the like have never been more than fringe first graders.

The halves are inexperinced, under skilled and poor defensivly, they lack an experienced, tough 80 minute player at hooker and their forwards are nothing special. Just yesterday I read an article from an English paper claiming Adrian Morley scares Australia, as if its still 2002!

England won’t beat Australia and New Zealand should account for them easily. The game I’m most interested in is their first match against PNG. Up in Townsville with how hot it is up there, and against a PNG side that has performed very well against Australia’s PM XIII sides over the last few years, PNG have a real chance of beating England.

Best case, England find themselves in the final, and that would be a good effort. Worst case, if they don’t win a game….what will be the future of Rugby League in England?

Papua New Guinea
They have been playing games every year against an Australian Prime Ministers Select team and their performances have been pretty good considering its the only games they get to play.

PNG play a really tough style of game that even Australian teams find hard to play against.

Coming into the hot weather of an Australian summer will really suit them, they play football is sub tropical conditions all the time, so they won’t complain about the heat.

They are on a bit of a hiding to nothing in the Super Group but I have to say, I think they have a very good chance of beating Engloand and if New Zealand get the shakes, they will take the game to them as well.

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