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NRL: The trio that will challenge Australia for the World Cup

The Kangaroos are the hot fancies to win the Rugby League World Cup which gets under way this week, but who are the main threats that have the potential to stop them?

Take one glance at the Australian squad and it is clear to see it is packed with talent and will take some stopping. They are priced at 1/2 to win the Rugby League World Cup.

Such is the embarrassment of riches available to coach Mal Meninga he could probably have named a second squad that would be among the contenders.

It is amazing that State of Origin stars Damien Cook and Nicho Hynes, players that would probably walk into any other side, have only made the standby list.

One of either Daly Cherry-Evans or Nathan Cleary will have to start on the bench!

However upsets happen. Australia winning the Rugby League World Cup is not a forgone conclusion and there are nations out there that have what it takes to beat the Kangaroos in a one-off game.

Without any further ado let’s take a look at the three big dangers to Australia’s hopes of defending the title they won back in 2017.

England

England are of course the home nation and are priced at 9/1 to go on and win the Rugby League World Cup.

They have a lot going in their favour and certainly have what it takes to go all the way and win the tournament, if one or two things go in their favour.

Home advantage is of course huge. Packed stadiums full of home support could act like an extra man and help England take their game to another level. 50,000 are expected to pack into Old Trafford, Manchester, for the first game against Samoa on Sunday.

Their draw also looks pretty friendly as well. If they can beat Samoa then they have the chance to make it all the way to the semi-finals without meeting one of the top sides. Then of course they will be two games away from glory.

Coach Shaun Wane has vast experience and has the know-how to mastermind a win. He has also assembled a squad that is packed with talent – many of which have been playing week in week out in the NRL.

South Sydney’s Tom Burgess and Canberra’s Elliott Whitehead, Herbie Farnworth (Brisbane), Victor Radley (Sydney Roosters), Dom Young (Newcastle) and Luke Thompson (Canterbury).

Radley can think himself unfortunate not to make the Australian squad and again misses out due to the strength in depth. However he qualifies for England via his Sheffield-born father and will be a huge asset.

New Zealand

New Zealand are priced at 4/1 to win the Rugby League World Cup and have the talent in the squad to go all the way.

Six of the players in the Kiwis squad played in the 2022 NRL grand final so that says it all. The spine of Michael Maguire’s team you could almost argue is on a par with Australia.

They boast Joey Manu (Sydney Roosters), Brandon Smith (Melbourne Storm), Dylan Brown (Parramatta) and Jahrome Hughes (Melbourne Storm).

The forwards are also big and talented. James Fisher-Harris and Joseph Tapine are likely to start with Nelson Asofa-Solomona and Moses Leota ready to be swapped in.

New Zealand also have Syndey Roosters star Jared Waerea-Hargreaves available later in the tournament once he has served a suspension.

Throw in Jesse and Kenny Bromwich, along with Isaiah Papali’i and it is no wonder New Zealand are viewed as serious contenders.

If everything goes to plan then they will have to face Australia in the semi-final. However if they are to win the World Cup they would have to beat the Kangaroos at some point, may as well be in the semis.

Tonga

Tonga are priced at 12/1 to win the Rugby League World Cup and are many peoples dark horses for the tournament.

Again Tonga have bags of quality in their side and Jason Taumalolo pledging his allegiance to them was huge.

Daniel Tupou and Felise Kaufusi both played State of Origin in 2022, while Cronulla Sharks star Sione Katoa is back available and ready to play.

The one advantage for Tonga is that they have a settled side that know each other well and they should not be buried by a heap of expectation.

They should make it through their group to the knock-out stages and then no-one will relish taking them on in a do-or-die clash as they are capable of an upset as they showed when beating Australia in 2019.

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