Telling you England can win the World Cup is not telling you anything. I’ll tell you why I think England will win the World Cup.
It’s not because of cryotherapy, altitude training, sports psychology or camps in Dubai. It’s not because of meet ups during the year that I’m led to believe turned into a box-ticking exercises. It’s not because England played Samoa mid-season. It’s far more basic than the complexity thrown on modern sports teams.
Layer upon layer of detail in search of the mythical one per cent. It’s down to who England have but, far more importantly as far as I’m concerned, who their greatest rivals don’t have.
Australia are a champion side full of stars, some that will be remembered as amongst the greatest ever. Two of those are missing. No Greg Inglis and no Jonathan Thurston. Yes, I know their replacements will be very good but they won’t make Australia stronger.
No Matt Scott, Sam Thaiday and particularly Andrew Fifita, the first two proven international winners, the third a player that can bring that special play to a game just when you think you are containing the Kangaroos.
Australia will in my opinion not be better in their absence. No Darius Boyd but the full-back position won’t suffer. The great Billy Slater is back and slots into the Melbourne triangle that were awesome in a title-winning year.
I get that brilliance and the challenge it presents but in past year the Kangaroos were so much more than those three. Maybe not so much this year. Australia’s losses are England’s gain.
New Zealand. They opt to stand down two cornerstones of their pack in Jesse Bromwich and Kevin Proctor. I get why but I found the decision misplaced in the not always moral world of sport. That we are led to believe was the reason behind the world’s best power forward Jason Taumalolo’s defection to Tonga.
The Kiwis are significantly weaker in the absence of that trio. Taumalolo appears to have opened the gates as Parramatta forward Manu Ma’u, Warriors’ winger David Fusitu’a and Roosters’ prop Sio Siua Taukeiaho all switched to Tonga as well.
Tohu Harris, Jordan Kahu, Kieran Foran and Ben Matulino all not considered because of injury. Yes yes, New Zealand always dangerous etc and so forth but now weaker without doubt.
Tonga will provide I believe a great story like Fiji in 2008 but go no further than the semis. The real test for them will be keeping their “new found” stars for years to come.
If the “shirt swappers” never play for New Zealand again it will be a good thing for the global game.
I can’t just sell you an England World Cup win based on who the major opposition doesn’t have. What about Wayne’s World Cup winners. Why do I feel they will bring the trophy back to these shores? Well, I have covered the big advantage to them, opposition absentees. Let’s look at England’s players.
Have they got two wingers who can run the ball 15-20 times EACH in a game from dummy half and roll the opposition backwards while at the same time giving their forwards a rest? Tick. McGillvary and Hall can also finish as well as any others in the tournament.
Gareth Widdop was the best stand-off in the NRL and Luke Gale the best player in Super League. I believe they will play behind a dominant pack and flourish.
Hooker. Actually hookers. Josh Hodgson can consider himself amongst the world’s best and I believe James Roby has been in that company for years.
Now the juicy bit. Hill, Graham, Burgess, Burgess, Walmsley. They need to be big and bold in actions that match their statures. I would expect fireworks from these men. Yes roll the clock back, test the referee, test your opposition’s appetite for trench warfare.
Leave your mark in Melbourne. Sean O’Loughlin and Elliott Whitehead can jump in to exploit a retreating defence and look for the ball a little wider from quick rucks. Anything wide is a waste of time unless the wingers and middle men have rolled over their opposites.
I would play McMeeken and Percival but that’s a separate discussion.
Anyway, England will win.