Rugby League World Cup Preview – Australia
A wounded Kangaroo is a dangerous one and on the 22nd November 2008, this was when the Australia rugby league team will have begun plotting their revenge having relinquished their title.
Having entered the 2008 Rugby League World Cup as overwhelming favourites with nine titles (six consecutive) already to their name and hosting the competition, their Antipodean neighbours spoilt the party in the most dramatic fashion by defeating them in the final in their own backyard. Losing is tough, in a final even tougher but losing to New Zealand is not even an option as there is no love lost between the two nations in any form of the game.
Fast forward five years and the green and gold arrive in England once again as favourites and with a score to settle as they set out to reclaim their Rugby League World Cup title for a record tenth time. Although it has been a long five year wait, Australia did in fact claim the Four Nations title back in 2011 and defeated the Kiwis as well as England on route to claiming that silverware.
With their 24-man squad announced last week, coach Tim Sheens announced three uncapped players with Sydney Roosters back-rower Boyd Cordner, Cronulla Sharks prop Andrew Fifita and Canberra Raiders back-rower Josh Papalii having been selected over the injured trio of Justin Hodges, Kurt Gidley and Anthony Watmough. With little surprises amongst the named squad, the only slight question mark is that there was only space for three players from the NRL Grand Final played out recently.
With record try scorer and most capped player Darren Lockyer having retired in 2011, Cameron Smith now leads the side and has the hopes of a nation resting on his shoulders. Mixed into the squad there is plenty of experience on offer as seven players competed in the 2008 final and so will be determined to avenge that defeat.
On paper, Australia have everyone in place to deliver a successful campaign and return home with the trophy. It’s never plain sailing however and if rumours are to be believed then a potential rift between the NSW and Queensland players will need to be avoided when the time comes to stepping onto the field.
As far as their group is concerned then the crunch match comes in their opening encounter with England. The winner of this game is almost certain to go on and top the group and avoid having to face New Zealand until the final at Old Trafford on November 30th. With Fiji and Ireland also in group action, should the Kangaroos win against England then it is likely they will rotate their squad to allow rest key players in preparation for the knock-out stages.
Greg Bird (Gold Coast Titans), Darius Boyd(Newcastle Knights), Daly Cherry-Evans(Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles), Boyd Cordner (Sydney Roosters), Cooper Cronk(Melbourne Storm), Robbie Farah (Wests Tigers), Andrew Fifita (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks), Paul Gallen (Cronulla Sutherland-Sharks), Jarryd Hayne (Parramatta Eels),Greg Inglis (South Sydney Rabbitohs),Michael Jennings (Sydney Roosters), Luke Lewis (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks), Brett Morris (St George Illawarra Dragons), Josh Morris (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs),Nate Myles ( Gold Coast Titans), Josh Papalii (Canberra Raiders), Corey Parker (Brisbane Broncos),Matthew Scott (North Queensland Cowboys), Billy Slater (Melbourne Storm), Cameron Smith (Melbourne Storm), James Tamou (North Queensland Cowboys), Brent Tate (North Queensland Cowboys), Sam Thaiday (Brisbane Broncos), Johnathan Thurston (North Queensland Cowboys).
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