RLWC Pool A: England Banking on Enthusiasm to Upset Kangaroos

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Rugby League World Cup Media Opportunity
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 22: Cameron Smith of Australia and Sean O'Loughlin of England pose for a photo during a Rugby League World Cup media opportunity at Sofitel Brisbane on October 22, 2017 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

The Rugby League World Cup (RLWC) begins on Friday. The opening fixture is AUSVENG and that will be a hotly contested pool. With England banking on their enthusiasm to upset the Kangaroos in RLWC Pool A.

The talented Australian side is still online to retain their title, even without stars Sam Thaiday and Greg Inglis. It will be easier with home crowds cheering them on too. The English, New Zealand and a star-studded Tongan side pose the biggest threat to the Aussies, in the month long RLWC tournament.

Lebanon and France will test the Aussies and English mantle in the group stages. Reece Robinson, Robbie Farah and Tim Mannah have boosted the Lebanese camp. Here is the breakdown of RLWC Pool A.

RLWC Pool A: England Banking on Enthusiasm to Upset Kangaroos

Australia

Moniker: Kangaroos | First Test: 1908 – New Zealand 11 Australia 10 (Sydney, Australia)

Best World Cup Results: Winner (1960, 1968, 1970, 1975, 1977, 1988, 1992, 1995, 2000, 2013) Runners Up (1960, 1972, 2008)

Head Coach: Mal Meniga

Australia has named a star-studded Aussie Kangaroos side to defend their World title. Winner on 10 occasions, it is in their backyard, and they will want to show that 2008 was an anomaly.

The side will be led by Cameron Smith again, and includes six debutants due in part to some player defections to represent other nations in 2017.

Coach Mal Meninga talks to players during an Australian Kangaroos Rugby League World Cup training session. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Cameron Munster, Felise Kaufusi and Jordan McLean join Manly’s Tom Trbojevic, the Knights-bound Rabbitohs star Dane Gagai and Sharks’s Wade Graham as debutants. The forwards have big shoes to fill with Andrew Fifita and Josh Papali’i [playing for Tonga], and Sam Thaiday overlooked; all missing from the squad.

The Kangaroos had a good hit-out at the Tri-Nations exhibition match in Suva, Fiji where the new boys were tested against good opposition. The Aussies have the depth in their side and will be unbeatable, especially with their in form trio of Storm playmakers still on a ‘Premiership winning high’.

Kangaroos Main Enforcers:

With Fifita and Thaiday out, the onus is for the rest of the forwards to step out from their shadow. David Klemmer, Tyson Frizell and Aaron Woods will need to step up to help Boyd Corner and Josh McGuire.

Game changers: All firing Storm trio of Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater are the big difference in the side from all teams. However, don’t count the enthusiasm brought in by the super-interchange Reagan Campbell-Gillard.

Match Winners: Not one to exaggerate but the rise of Felise Kaufusi can be compared to the legendary Steve Menzies. He is a forward but a very excellent finisher judging by his end of the season form for the Storm. Valentine Holmes is another match winner together with Dane Gagai and the Trbojevic brothers.

“He can play both middle and edge and helps balance the team out” Mal Meninga said about Kaufusi on rlwc2017.com.

Kangaroos RLWC fixtures:

  • 27/10/2017 – v England (Melbourne)
  • 03/11/2017 – v France (Canberra)
  • 11/11/2017 – v Lebanon (Sydney)

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England

Moniker: Lions | First Test: April, 1904 – England 9 Other Nationalities 3

Best World Cup Results: Winner (1954*, 1960*, 1972*) Runners Up (1957*, 1970*, 1975, 1992*, 1995)

*Competed as Great Britain

Head Coach: Wayne Bennett

The English have named a very formidable coach with Brisbane Broncos mentor Wayne Bennett the helm. Wigan Warriors stalwart Sean O’Loughlin will lead the side with veterans Ryan Hall and James Graham.

KallumWatkins, Sam Burgess, Chris Hill, James Roby and Gareth Widdop add depth to the side who are one of the favorites to take the World title. Alex Walmsley and Ben Currie will be making their debut for the English. 18 of the squad members were part of the team that defeated Samoa in the mid-season Pacific Test.

“This is shaping up to be a very competitive tournament. Squads are being confirmed now and its clear to see the spread of talent will add to some exciting games” English coach Wayne Bennett on the World Cup on rlwc2017.com

England’s Main Enforcers:

Steve Prescott – the MBE Man of Steel recipient – and Castleford Tigers’s Luke Gale will be the main enforcers in the side. They will be assisted with South Sydney Rabbitohs enforcer Sam Burgess, together with Chris Heighton and Thomas Burgess.

Game changers: Dally M Half-Back of the Year, Gareth Widdop and Betfred Super League’s top meter-maker rookie Alex Walmsley are the big game changers in the side. The experience of Graham and Hall will add depth as they take it to the Aussies in the opening game of the tourney.

Match Winners: Captain O’Loughlin is a big match winner, with Kallum Watkins. James Roby brings versatility at hooker that will test the Cameron Smith-Cooper Cronk combination. Chris Hill, Jermaine McGillavary, Josh Hodgson and Stefan Ratchford are all expected to feature prominently.

English RLWC fixtures:

  • 27/10/2017 – v Australia (Melbourne)
  • 04/11/2017 – v Lebanon (Sydney)
  • 12/11/2017 – v France (Perth)

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France

Moniker: Les Chanticleers | First Test: 15/04/1934 – France 21 England 32

Best World Cup Results: Runners Up (1954, 1968)

Head coach: Aurelien Cologni

22 year-old halfback Theo Fages, the son of former international Pascal Fages will lead the Les Chanticlers in the World Cup. He will bank on Jason Baiteri and Benjamin Garcia to help him spearhead their campaign.

Former Kangaroo Andrew Johns has giving advice and assistance, to bring the French players up to speed. While as solid as any International league team, being over eager might be a fault–so a word from one of the immortals is beneficial for Les Chanticlers.

“I think they will surprise some teams.”

France’s power will lye in their team values and culture. How they travel will depend on good communication, and enjoying themselves. To be relaxed and to take opportunities allowed them. Vive la France!

France RLWC fixtures:

  • 29/10/2017 – v Lebanon (Canberra)
  • 03/11/2017 – v Australia (Sydney)
  • 12/11/2017 – v England (Perth)

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Lebanon

Moniker: Cedars | First Test: 1998 – Lebanon 52 Japan 28 (Tokyo, Japan)

Best World Cup results: Group Stages (2000)

Head coach: Brad Fittler

The Lebanese could be the surprise package of the tourney with the inclusion of NRL stars. Robbie Farah will lead the side, assisted by Mitchell Moses. They will be interesting to watch, and they will test out the English and Aussies in pool play [which is likely as far as they go].

Teams like Lebanon have achieved much to reach these stages, and the experience for most players will be huge. Scouts may even target some, who could make names for themselves in major Australian or English competitions; post-World Cup.

Lebanon Main Enforcers:

Tim Mannah is the biggest enforcer in the side, with Ray Moujali.

Game changers: Farah and Moses are big game changers. The Cedars have to ‘step up’ to International standards, and play off the star duo if they want to progress further in the tournament.

Match Winners: Reece Robinson will be their vital finisher together, with Moses and Mannah.

Lebanon RLWC fixtures:

  • 29/10/2017 – v France (Canberra)
  • 04/11/2017 – v England (Sydney)
  • 11/11/2017 – v Australia (Sydney)

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Will the English Upset the World Champion Aussies?

With a seemingly depleted side, the Aussies are vulnerable. However, these players have the experience to rise to the occasion.

England has a good chance to beat them–in RLWC Pool A play, or possibly in the Final–to claim their third World Title. Having super-Coach and mentor Wayne Bennett is a huge bonus.

Lebanon and France will fight it out that quarter final spot. It could go either way, with the Lebanese team boosted with NRL and Sydney-based players.

Enjoy our other RLWC Pool evaluations here.

 

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