Well, the momentous occasion has arrived. The Rugby League World Cup is here in all its glory and by gosh, is it slated to be a tremendous spectacle. Each team boasts their strengths and weaknesses and whilst the Kangaroos go in as favourites, can another team upset the apple cart?
With all that in mind, here are the teams for Rd 1 of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup:
Australian Kangaroos v England (#RLWC2017 & #AUSENG); AAMI Park, Melbourne; Friday, October 27. Kick-off: 8 pm (AEDT).
Kangaroos: 1. Billy Slater 2. Dane Gagai 3. Will Chambers 4. Josh Dugan 5. Valentine Holmes 6. Michael Morgan 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Aaron Woods 9. Cameron Smith (C) 10. David Klemmer 11. Boyd Cordner 12. Matt Gillett 13. Jake Trbojevic.
Interchange: 14. Wade Graham 15. Jordan McLean 16. Josh McGuire 17. Tyson Frizell.
Reserves: 18. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 19. Ben Hunt 20. Tom Trbojevic 21. Felise Kaufusi.
Coach: Mal Meninga.
England: 1. Jonny Lomax 2. Jermaine McGillvary 3. Kallum Watkins 4. John Bateman 5. Ryan Hall 6. Gareth Widdop 7. Luke Gale 8. Chris Hill 9. Josh Hodgson 10. James Graham 11. Sam Burgess 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Sean O’Loughlin (C).
Interchange: 14. Alex Walmsley 15. Chris Heighington 16. Thomas Burgess 17. James Roby.
Reserves: 18. Ben Currie 19. Kevin Brown 20. Mark Percival 21. Scott Taylor.
Coach: Wayne Bennett.
Ricky’s View: The Australians go into this game and the competition as favourites but the English side are not to be underestimated. Boasting a try-scoring freak at the World Cup in winger Ryan Hall and a forward pack filled with NRL stars, the English should provide the Australian side with some stiff competition. Kangaroos by 2.
Papua New Guinea Kumuls v Wales (#RLWC2017 & #PNGWAL); Oil Search NSF Stadium, Port Moresby; Saturday, October 28. Kick-off: 3 pm (local time) & 4 pm (AEDT).
PNG: 1. David Mead (C) 2. Justin Olam 3. Kato Ottio 4. Nene Macdonald 5. Garry Lo 6. Ase Boas 7. Watson Boas 8. Stanton Albert 9. Wartovo Puara 10. Luke Page 11. Rhyse Martin 12. Rod Griffin 13. Paul Aiton.
Interchange: 14. Kurt Baptiste 15. Willie Minoga 16. James Segeyaro 17. Enoch Maki.
Reserves: 18. Lachlan Lam 19. Stargroth Amean 20. Wellington Albert 21. Moses Meninga.
Wales: 1. Elliot Kear 2. Rhys Williams 3. Michael Channing 4. Andrew Gay 5. Regan Grace 6. Courtney Davies 7. Matt Seamark 8. Craig Kopczak (C) 9. Steve Parry 10. Phil Joseph 11. Rhodri Lloyd 12. Ben Morris 13. Morgan Knowles.
Interchange: 14. Matty Fozard 15. Sam Hopkins 16. Ben Evans 17. Chester Butler.
Reserves: 18. Josh Ralph 19. Dalton Grant 20. Christiaan Roets 21. Matthew Barron.
Coach: John Kear.
Ricky’s View: This is a fascinating clash. Both sides boast NRL and SL experience respectively, yet some are of the belief that outside of this game, neither is a genuine chance to go past the group stages. A win goes a long way in this tournament and both sides will be out to prove any doubters wrong. PNG led by Broncos utility back David Mead and Wales by Salford prop Craig Kopczak, both teams have a point to prove. PNG by 8.
New Zealand Kiwis v Samoa (#RLWC2017 & #NZLSAM); Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland; Saturday, October 28. Kick-off: 8:10 pm (local time) & 6:10 pm (AEDT).
New Zealand: 1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 2. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 3. Gerard Beale 4. Brad Takairangi 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Kodi Nikorima 7. Shaun Johnson 8. Martin Taupau 9. Thomas Leuluai 10. Adam Blair (C) 11. Kenny Bromwich 12. Joseph Tapine 13. Simon Mannering.
Interchange: 14. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 15. Russell Packer 16. Isaac Liu 17. Danny Levi.
Reserves: 18. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 19. Peta Hiku 20. Te Maire Martin 21. Addin Fonua-Blake.
Coach: David Kidwell.
Samoa: 1. Young Tonumaipea 2. Peter Mata’utia 3. Timoteo Lafai 4. Joey Leilua 5. Ken Maumalo 6. Joseph Paulo 7. Ben Roberts 8. Junior Paulo 9. Jazz Tevaga 10. Sam Lisone 11. Josh Papalii 12. Frank Pritchard (C) 13. Leeson Ah Mau.
Interchange: 14. Pita Godinet 15. Herman Ese’ese 16 .Suaia Matagi 17. Bunty Afoa.
Reserves: 18. Zane Musgrove 19. Ricky Leutele 20. Frank Winterstein 21. Fa’amanu Brown.
Coach: Matt Parish.
Ricky’s View: With several Kiwis players missing due to suspension, injuries or poor form, the side boasts some debutants and newcomers to World Cups but it is formidable nevertheless. With many of the hopes likely to hinge on Shaun Johnson’s creativity and the experience of their forward pack.
The Samoan side is not to be underestimated, though, for they boast some talent of their own. Littered with NRL and SL talent, they have the chance to cause some upsets and ruffle some feathers in the competition. Samoa by 2.
Fiji v USA (#RLWC2017 & #FIJUSA); Townsville Stadium; Saturday, October 28. Kick-off: 7:40 pm (local time) & 8:40 pm (AEDT).
Fiji: 1. Kevin Naiqama (C) 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. Taane Milne 4. Akuila Uate 5. Marcelo Montoya 6. Jarryd Hayne 7. Henry Raiwalui 8. Ashton Sims 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. Kane Evans 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Korbin Sims 13. Tui Kamikamica.
Interchange: 14. Joe Lovodua 15. Jacob Saifiti 16. Eloni Vunakece 17. Petero Benjamin Nakubuwai.
Reserves: 18. Brayden Wiliame 19. James Storer 20. Junior Roqica 21. Pio Seci.
Coach: Mick Potter.
USA: 1.Corey Makelim 2. Ryan Burroughs 3. Junior Vaivai 4. Jonathan Alley 5. Bureta Faraimo 6. Kristian Freed 7. Matthew Walsh 8. Eddy Pettybourne 9. David Marando 10. Mark Offerdahl (C) 11. Danny Howard 12. Matt Shipway 13. Nicholas Newlin.
Interchange: 14. Sam Tochterman-Talbott 15. Andrew Kniesly 16. Steve Howard 17. Gabriel Farley.
Reserves: 18. Charles Joseph Cortolano 19. Joe Eichner 20. David Ulch 21. Joshua Rice.
Coach: Brian McDermott.
Ricky’s View: A young, budding US side that boasts a wealth of home-grown American talent, they will be looking to emulate their 2013 campaign as they surprised many and claimed scalps on their way to a quarterfinals berth. The question is; will it be enough to beat a strong Fijian side? This Fijian possesses numerous experienced NRL campaigners and their ambitions are bold and brave and they mean business; will their confidence echo their play, though? Fiji by 12
Ireland v Italy (#RLWC2017 & #IREITA); Barlow Park, Cairns; Sunday, October 29. Kick-off: 2 pm (local) & 3 pm (AEDT).
Ireland: 1. Scott Grix 2. Shannon McDonnell 3. Ed Chamberlain 4. Michael Morgan 5. Liam Kay 6. Api Pewhairangi 7. Liam Finn (C) 8. Brad Singleton 9. Michael McIlorum 10. Kyle Amor 11. Louis McCarthy-Scarsbrook 12. Oliver Roberts 13. George King.
Interchange: 14. Tyrone McCarthy 15. James Hasson 16. Joe Philbin 17. Anthony Mullally.
Reserves: 18. Joe Keyes 19. Will Hope 20. Jack Higginson 21. Matty Hadden.
Coach: Mark Aston.
Italy: 1. James Tedesco 2. Mason Cerruto 3. Justin Castellaro 4. Nathan Milone 5. Josh Mantellato 6. Terry Campese 7. Jack Johns 8. Paul Vaughan 9. Ryan Ghietti 10. Daniel Alvaro 11. Joel Reithmuller 12. Mark Minichiello 13. Nathan Brown (C).
Interchange: 14. Colin Wilkie 15. Brenden Santi 16. Shannon Wakeman 17. Jayden Walker.
Reserves: 18. Christophe Calegari 19. Christopher Centrone 20. Joey Tramontana 21. Gavin Hiscox.
Coach: Cameron Ciraldo.
Ricky’s View: Of all the sides regarded as minnows, the Italians, along with Fiji, are the team that many pundits believe have the best chance to pushing the top sides all the way and potentially beating them. Capitalising on the use of players not selected for the top sides, the Italians embody pride and spirit and will use that to fuel themselves throughout the competition.
Ireland, led by veteran Liam Finn, will use their own skills and luck of the Irish, to show that they are here to play and are not pushovers. Italy by 10.
Scotland Bravehearts v Tonga Mate Ma’a (#RLWC2017 & #SCOTON); Barlow Park, Cairns; Sunday, October 29. Kick-off: 4:15 pm (local) & 5:15 pm (AEDT).
Scotland: 1. Lewis Tierney 2. Matty Russell 3. Ben Hellewell 4. Lachlan Stein 5. Will Oakes 6. Danny Brough (C) 7. Danny Addy 8. Luke Douglas 9. Kane Bentley 10. Ben Kavanagh 11. Frankie Mariano 12. Dale Ferguson 13. James Bell.
Interchange: 14. Callum Phillips 15. Andrew Bentley 16. Sam Brooks 17. Johnny Walker.
Reserves: 18. Alex Walker 19. Jarred Anderson 20. Kieran Moran 21. Brandon Wilkinson.
Coach: Steve McCormack.
Tonga: 1. Will Hopoate 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Michael Jennings 4. Konrad Hurrell 5. Manu Vatuvei 6. Tuimoala Lolohea 7. Ata Hingano 8. Andrew Fifita 9. Siliva Havili 10. Sio Siua Taukeiaho 11. Manu Ma’u 12. Sika Manu (C) 13. Jason Taumalolo.
Interchange: 14. Sione Katoa 15. Sam Moa 16. Peni Terepo 17. Ben Murdoch-Masila.
Reserves: 18. Joe Ofahengaue 19. Solomone Kata 20. David Fusitu’a 21. Samisoni Langi.
Coach: Kristian Woolf.
Ricky’s View: The Pacific Island nations have all brought their a-games to this tournament. You only have to take one look at the depth of talent across that Tongan side to know that they will most certainly ruffle some feathers in the tournament. A huge pack of in-form forwards and an experienced back-line, if the team gels, the others may want to be on their toes.
Scotland, on the flip side, has a young team that will be eager to do their country proud and make a name for themselves as individuals and as a team. In the Rugby League World Cup, anything is possible. Tonga by 10.
France Les Bleus v Lebanon Cedars (#RLWC2017 & #FRALEB); Canberra Stadium; Sunday, October 29. Kick-off: 4 pm.
France: 1. Mark Kheirallah 2. Fouad Yaha 3. Bastien Ader 4. Damien Cardace 5. Ilias Bergal 6. Theo Fages (C) 7. William Barthau 8. Antoni Maria 9. Eloi Pelissier 10. Julian Bousquet 11. Benjamin Garcia 12. Benjamin Jullien 13. Jason Baitieri.
Interchange: 14. Clement Boyer 15. Nabil Djalout 16. Thibault Margalet 17. Lucas Albert.
Reserves: 18. John Boubedza 19. Olivier Arnaud 20. Mickael Rouch 21. Romain Navarette.
Coach: Aurelien Cologni.
Lebanon: 1. Anthony Layoun 2. Travis Robinson 3. James Elias 4. Jason Wehbe 5. Abbas Miski 6. Mitchell Moses 7. Robbie Farah (C) 8. Tim Mannah 9. Michael Lichaa 10. Alex Twal 11. Chris Saab 12. Ahmad Ellaz 13. Nick Kassis.
Interchange: 14. Mitchell Mamary 15. Elias Sukkar 16. Jaleel Seve-Derbas 17. Andrew Kazzi.
Reserves: 18. Adam Douehihi 19. Bilal Maarbani 20. Jamie Clark 21. Danny Barakat.
Coach: Brad Fittler.
Ricky’s View: Brad Fittler will certainly use all of his coaching experience and knowledge to get the Lebanese side performing strongly and led by Robbie Farah along with other NRL stars, they will put up a fight and be competitive, nor will they die wondering.
For the Les Bleus, World Cups are now second nature to them and whilst in the past, they may not have lived up to their own expectations, there is a belief that they can come together and perform. Lebanon by 2.