Category Archives: Rugby League World Cup

Rugby League World Cup 2017 squads

My word, how quickly four years passes! A Rugby League World Cup is yet again upon us. Will it be all smooth sailing for the Australian Kangaroos side or can another team surprise the rest and earn their way to the top of the mountain?

With those thoughts in mind, we have you covered with the squads that will be named for each respective team and so without further adieu, here we go:

France: Bastian Ader,  William Barthau, Clement Boyer, Mark Kheirallah & Antony Maria (all Toulouse Olympique). Olivier Arnaud & Guillaume Bonnet (both SO Avignon XIII). Lucas Albert, Jason Baitieri, Julian Bousquet, Nabil Djalout, Benjamin Garcia, Thibaul Margalet, Roman Navarette & Fouad Yaha (all Catalans Dragons).

Damien Cardace (FC Lezignan). Theo Fages (St Helens).  John Boubedza (London Harlequins). Maxime Herold & Mickael Rouch (both XIII Limouxin). Benjamin Jullien (Warrington Wolves). Hakim Miloudi (Doncaster/Hull FC). Gadwin Springer (Castleford Tigers). Eloi Pelissier (Leigh Centurions).

Coach: Aurelien Cologni


Wales: Courtney Davies & Steve Parry (both Gloucestershire All Golds). Chester Butler (Halifax RLFC). Danny Ansell (Hunslet Hawks). Sam Hopkins (Leigh Centurions). Joe Burke (Oldham Roughyeds). Michael Channing, Ben Evans, Elliot Kear, Dalton Grant & Rhys Williams (all London Broncos). Gavin Bennion (Rochdale Hornets). Matty Barron (Newcastle Thunder).

Craig Kopczak (C) (Salford Red Devils). Matty Fozard (Sheffield Eagles). Andrew Gay & Christiaan Roets (both South Wales Ironmen). Regan Grace, Morgan Knowles & Ben Morris (all St Helens). Rhodri Lloyd (Swinton Lions). Josh Ralph (Tweed Heads Seagulls). Phil Joseph (Workington Town). Matty Seamark (Wynnum Manly Seagulls).

Coach: John Kear.


Lebanon: Robbie Farah & Adam Doueihi (both South Sydney Rabbitohs). James Elias (West Newcastle). Mitch Moses, Anthony Layoun & Tim Mannah (all Parramatta Eels). Danny Barakat (Wentworthville Magpies). Jason Wehbe, Elias Sukkar, Mitch Mamary & Reece Robinson (all unattached). 

Raymond Sabat (Lycans FC). Ray Moujalli & Michael Lichaa (both Canterbury Bulldogs). Jamie Clark & Ahmad Ellaz (both Auburn Warriors). Nick Kassis & Chris Saab (both Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles). Bilal Maarbani (Manly Sea Eagles). Abbas Miski (North Sydney Bears). Travis Robinson (Newtown Jets).

Coach: Freddy Fittler.


Scotland: Danny Addy, Ben Kavanagh, Kieran Moran (all Hull KR). Ryan Brierley (Toronto Wolfpack). Frankie Mariano (both Featherstone Rovers). Danny Brough & Dale Ferguson (Huddersfield). Shane Toal (Barrow Raiders). Luke Douglas (St Helens). Ben Hellewell & Alex Walker (both London Broncos). Oscar Thomas & Brandon Wilkinson (both Bradford Bulls). Gavin Bennion (Rochdale Hornets).  Callum Phillips (both Workington Town).
Matty Russell (Warrington Wolves). David Scott (Batley RLFC).
Lewis Tierney (Wigan Warriors). Lachlan Stein (Penrith Panthers). Jonathan Walker (Darlington Point Roosters). James Bell (New Zealand Warriors). Andrew Bentley & Kane Bentley (both Toulouse Olympique). Jarred Anderson (Sydney Roosters).
Coach: Stephen McCormack

USA: Jonathan Taylor Alley (Central Florida Warriors). Ryan Burroughs & Joseph Eichner (both Toronto Wolfpack). Bureta Faraimo (New Zealand Warriors). Gabriel Farley & Andrew Kniesly (both Philadelphia Fight). Charles ‘CJ’ Cortalano, Kristian Freed & Matt Walsh (all Plain White Wombats). Daniel Howard (Wentworthville Magpies).
Stephen Howard & Corey Makelim (both Mounties RLFC). Martwain Johnson (Delaware Black Foxes). Fotukava ‘Hiko’ Malu & Nicholas Newlin (both Atlanta Rhinos). David Marando (Belrose Eagles). Mark Offerdahl (London Broncos). Eddy Pettybourne & Samuel Tochtermann-Talbott (both Tweed Heads Seagulls).
Josh Rice (New York Knights. Matt Shipway (South Newcastle). David Ulch (Tampa Mayhem). Taiolo Vaivai (Illawarra Wests Devils.

Coach: Brian McDermott


Italy: Daniel Alvaro & Nathan Brown (both Parramatta Eels). Mirco Bergamasco (Venetian Lions).  Terry Campese (Queanbeyan Blues).  Ryan Castellaro, Ryan Ghietti, Joel Reithmuller & Colin Wilkie (all Northern Pride). Chris Centrone, Josh Mantellato & Brenden Santi (all Wyong Roos). Mason Cerruto (Penrith Panthers). Gavin Hiscox (Central Queensland Capras).

Jack Johns (Newcastle Knights). Richard Lepori (Oldham Roughyeds). Mark Minichiello (Hull FC). Nathan Milone & James Tedesco (both Wests Tigers).  Joey Tramontana (Canterbury Bulldogs). Paul Vaughan (St George Illawarra Dragons). Shannon Wakeman (Huddersfield Giants). Jayden Walker (Cronulla Sharks). Cristophe Calegari (Palau XIII Broncos).

Coach: Cameron Ciraldo.

PNG Kumuls: Ase Boas (VC), Enoch Maki, Moses Meninga, Nixon Put, Stanton Albert, Stargroth Amean, Wartovo Puara Jr, Wellington Albert, Watson Boas & Willie Minoga (all PNG Hunters). David Mead (C) (Brisbane Broncos). Garry Lo (Sheffield Eagles). James Segeyaro (Cronulla Sharks).

Justin Olam (Melbourne Storm). Lachlan Lam (Sydney Roosters). Kurt Baptiste & Kato Ottio (both Canberra Raiders). Luke Page (Burleigh Bears). Nene Macdonald (St George Illawarra Dragons). Paul Aiton (Catalans Dragons). Rhyse Martin & Rod Griffin (both Canterbury Bulldogs). Thompson Teteh (Redcliffe Dolphins).

Coach: Michael Marum


New Zealand: Nelson Asofa-Solomona & Kenny Bromwich (both Melbourne Storm). Adam Blair & Kodi Nikorima (both Brisbane Broncos). Addin Fonua-Blake & Martin Taupau (both Manly Sea Eagles). Peta Hiku (Warrington Wolves). Shaun Johnson, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck & Simon Mannering (all New Zealand Warriors). Thomas Leuluai (Wigan Warriors). Danny Levi (Newcastle Knights).
Isaac Liu & Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (both Sydney Roosters). Te Maire Martin (North Queensland Cowboys). Jason Nightingale & Russell Packer (both St George Illawarra Dragons). Jordan Rapana & Joseph Tapine (both Canberra Raiders). Brad Takairangi (Parramatta Eels). Elijah Taylor (Wests Tigers). Dallin Watene-Zelezniak & Dean Whare (both Penrith Panthers). Gerard Beale (Cronulla Sharks).
Coach: David Kidwell

Tonga: Andrew Fifita (Cronulla Sharks). Mahe Fonua & Sika Manu (both Hull FC). David Fusitu’a, Solomone Kata & Ata Hingano (all New Zealand Warriors). Will Hopoate (Canterbury Bulldogs). Konrad Hurrell (Gold Coast Titans). Michael Jennings, Peni Terepo & Manu Ma’u (all Parramatta Eels).

Sione Katoa (Penrith Panthers). Samisoni Langi (Leigh Centurions). Tuimoala Lolohea (Wests Tigers). Sam Moa (Catalans Dragons). Ben Murdoch-Masila & Manu Vatuvei (both Salford Devils). Joe Ofahengaue & Tevita Pangai Jr. (both Brisbane Broncos). Ukuma Ta’ai (Huddersfield Giants). Sio Siua Taukeiaho & Daniel Tupou (both Sydney Roosters). Jason Taumalolo (North Queensland Cowboys). 

Coach: Kristian Woolf


Australia: Billy Slater, Darius Boyd, Will Chambers, Dane Gagai, Tom Trbojevic, Josh Dugan, Valentine Holmes, Cooper Cronk, Cameron Munster, Michael Morgan, James Maloney, Aaron Woods, David Klemmer, Josh McGuire, Andrew Fifita, Jake Trbojevic, Jordan McLean, Boyd Cordner, Matt Gillett, Tyson Frizell, Wade Graham, Felise Kaufusi, Cameron Smith & Ben Hunt.

Coach: Mal Meninga.

Samoa:  Frank Pritchard (C) & Suaia Matagi (both Parramatta Eels). Leeson Ah Mau & Tim Lafai (both St George Illawarra Dragons). Bunty Afoa, Sam Lisone, Jazz Tevaga & Ken Maumalo (all New Zealand Warriors). F’amanu Brown, Ricky Leutele, Joseph Paulo & Sam Tagataese (all Cronulla Sharks). Herman Ese’ese (Brisbane Broncos). Jarome Luai (Penrith Panthers).

Pita Godinet , Frank Winterstein & Matthew Wright (all Manly Sea Eagles). Young Tonumaipea (Melbourne Storm). Peter Mata’utia (Newcastle Knights). Ben Roberts (Castleford Tigers). Josh Papalii, Joey Leilua & Junior Paulo (all Canberra Raiders). Zane Musgrove (South Sydney Rabbitohs). 


Ireland: Liam Finn (C), Scott Grix & James Hasson (all Wakefield Trinity). Kyle Amor & Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook (both St Helens). Liam Kay (Toronto Wolfpack), Will Hope & James Kelly (both Sheffield Eagles). Oliver Roberts (Huddersfield Giants). Ed Chamberlain (Widnes Vikings). George King, Toby King & Joe Philbin (all Warrington Wolves).

Joe Keyes (Bradford Bulls), Tyrone McCarthy (Salford Devils) & Casey Dunne (Longhorns RL). Jack Higginson & Michael McIlorum (both Wigan Warriors). Anthony Mullally & Brad Singleton (both Leeds Rhinos). Apirana Pewhairangi (London Broncos). Matty Hadden (Rochdale Hornets). Alan McMahon (Waterford Vikings).

Fiji: Kane Evans & Eloni Vunakece (both Sydney Roosters). Salesi Faingaa (Parramatta Eels). Jarryd Hayne & Ben Nakubuwai (both Gold Coast Titans). Tui Kamikamica & Suliasi Vunivalu (both Melbourne Storm). Viliame Kikau (Penrith Panthers). Apisai Koroisau & Akuila Uate (both Manly Sea Eagles). Joe Lovodua & Taane Milne (both St George Illawarra Dragons). Brayden Wiliame (Catalans Dragons). Henry Raiwalui (Mounties RLFC).

Sitiveni Moceidreke (South Sydney Rabbitohs). Marcelo Montoya (Canterbury Bulldogs). Kevin Naiqama (Wests Tigers). James Storer (Port Kembla Blacks). Mikaele Ravalawa (Canberra Raiders). Junior Roqica (London Broncos). Jacob Saifiti (Newcastle Knights). Ashton Sims (Warrington Wolves). Korbin Sims (Brisbane Broncos). Pio Seci (Nabua Broncos).

Coach: Mick Potter.


England: John Bateman, Sean O’Loughlin & George Williams (all Wigan Warriors). Kevin Brown, Ben Currie, Chris Hill & Stefan Ratchford (all Warrington Wolves). Luke Gale & Mike McMeeken (both Castleford Tigers). Chris Heighington (Cronulla Sharks). Sam Burgess & Thomas Burgess (both South Sydney Rabbitohs).
Scott Taylor (Hull FC). Gareth Widdop & James Graham (both St George Illawarra Dragons). Jermaine McGillvaray (Huddersfield Giants). Ryan Hall & Kallum Watkins (both Leeds Rhinos). Elliott Whitehead and Josh Hodgson (both Canberra Raiders). Jonny Lomax, Mark Percival, James Roby & Alex Walmsley (all St Helens).
Coach: Wayne Bennett.

One-sided RLWC grand final sees the Kangaroos thump the Kiwis

Johnathan Thurston

It probably was not the scoreline many would have been expecting but it did highlight the dominance of the Australian Kangaroos side, as they walloped the New Zealand Kiwis in the grand final, finishing up with a 34-2 win.

It was a masterclass from the Australians and a solid all round team performance, with man-of-the-match Johnathan Thurston producing a stellar display, leading from the front.

It is the Aussies’ 10th World Cup crown and it helped to ease the pain of their 2008 defeat, as they put on a show in front of just over 74,000 people in Manchester.

Using the 2008 loss as motivation to win this years World Cup, Australian skipper Cam Smith said it was a complete team performance by the side.

“I made the comment on the field that I can’t remember the last time I played in such a complete game for an Australian side,” Smith said.

“We have been preparing for this for the last four weeks. We have played simple and tough footy.

“I may have told a little white lie in the build-up when I said this didn’t mean too much from 2008.

“But standing out on the field after the match I think a little bit of the disappointment from 2008 was erased.”

Coach Tim Sheens was also extremely pleased, describing it as the best win since he has been coach.

“The seniority in the team really stood up,” he said.

Rather than make excuses, Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney was honest in his assessment – his side was thoroughly out played by a better side.

“I just think Australia’s performance today was nothing short of outstanding,” Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney said.

“They gave us a real lesson.”

There were a few injuries out of the game, with Kiwis winger Roger Tuivasa-Sheck re-injuring the same leg he did in the semi final, Greg Inglis suffering ligament damage to his thumb, as well as a couple of other niggling knocks.

Australians with the momentum as they romp home v Fiji and face New Zealand in WC final

Jarryd Hayne

It was just the sort of momentum they wanted leading into the tournament as they prepare to face New Zealand, after the Australian Kangaroos decimated a spirited Fijian side, winning 64-0.

In an eleven tries to zero romp, it was Jarryd Hayne who was once again the star of the game – despite Johnathan Thurston winning the man-of-the-match award – scoring three tries and putting on an all-round clinic.

With a tough game against the Kiwis coming up in the World Cup final, coach Tim Sheens knows that in reality, the game was tougher than it may have seemed and said his side are out to win.

“It was a tougher game than most people would think looking at the scoreline and we have plenty of bruises. We went out to defend well and we did,” Australia coach Tim Sheens said.

“We were embarrassed in the first game against England (in the first game of the tournament) and it will be a big ask next week against New Zealand.

“We have a week to get ready and we will be right.”

It was a one-way ticket to the World Cup as the Australians were firing on all cylinders – even forwards like Josh Papalii, James Tamou and Andrew Fifita getting on the scoresheet.

For Fiji, coach Rick Stone admits that it was a disappointing way for their tournament to end.

“We couldn’t match the Aussies in the skill and power, but we had a good tournament overall,” he said.

“We competed pretty well against England and Australia at times and we need to look at where we can compete more against them.

“We have come a long way since the last World Cup in 2008 and hopefully we can take some bigger steps now.”

Last-second try for New Zealand puts them in the World Cup final

Sam Burgess

Everyone knew the caliber of both teams heading into the clash and it was a game that well and truly lived up to the billing, as the New Zealand side scored a last-second try after some Shaun Johnson magic – leaving England fans stunned and disappointed.

Leading 18-14 with literally seconds on the clock, England may have thought they were home and dry but it was Johnson who would have the final say, weaving and darting his way over the line before converting his own try, to give the Kiwis a 20-18 win.

In what was perhaps one of the games of the tournament so far, England coach Steve McNamara refused to point the blame at any of his players.

“I don’t think he (Sinfield) has got anything to blame himself for, he worked his socks off. It would be very cruel to blame anyone for anything after that result,” he said.

“I’m not sure what the answer is. You have to move on, there are worse things in life. We are all feeling as though we are as low as we can be, but in reality it’s not.

“Worse things happen and we should be privileged we’ve been part of such a brilliant game. I’m sure we will soon get a reality check and realise we have to move on.”

With McNamara now at the end of his contract as England coach, he is unsure what his future in the top job will hold.

“I’m not sure at this stage, it’s too early,” McNamara said of his prospects of staying in the job.

“I have been focused on giving us the best opportunity (at the World Cup). It’s been a pleasure putting this programme together, I have a brilliant staff and great players and it’s something I am proud of and not something I want to give up easily.”

England put up a fight and fought valiantly, with Sam Burgess having a monumental game despite the loss – he was named man of the match – but despite everything, McNamara knows that the key is that players recover from the loss first.

“We are distraught but great credit to New Zealand. This is high-level sport and high-level sport can be cruel. It was for us,” McNamara said.

“I’m not going to try and pick them up yet. They’ve used every ounce of energy they’ve got. It’s raw and we had a brief chat of how tough we’ve been.

“All of them, every single one, have put their hands up, have prepared brilliantly. They have attacked this tournament. We have dealt with things, maybe other teams haven’t. That’s what this England team is all about and we’ve come through the other side and produced a brilliant performance.”

The nail-biting ordeal was enough to have Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney looking away, though it was the character of his side that pleased him the most.

“I was under the desk so I don’t know,” he said when asked how he dealt with the late drama.

“I was always confident of what we could do if we had a minute to go, had the footy and were down by four. It was the 79 minutes before which were pretty hard.

“We gave ourselves a chance with half a minute to go. If you’re good enough, you’re good enough. If you’re under pressure like we were but don’t open the floodgates, you have a chance.”

Despite the last-gasp win, Kearney knows that they will have to improve if they are to beat a rampant Australian side.

“I’m mindful that a performance like that from us will not be good enough next week,” he added.
“We were gritty and tough and there are a lot of areas we need to polish up on but I know we can improve.”

Fiji advance to World Cup semis and look forward to running out at Wembley

Akuila Uate

Fiji will take the win over Samoa to advance to the semi-finals of the World Cup but the chance to run out at Wembley is something they are all looking forward to.

After a strong showing against Samoa that saw them win 22-4, Fiji and especially Fijian captain Petero Civoniceva, are relishing the opportunity to run out at Wembley and play there.

“It was something we didn’t talk about because all our focus and preparation was on this game but we can talk about Wembley now,” said Civoniceva.

“It’s great feeling to know that potentially my last game will be played at (one of) two amazing venues.

“I feel I’ve been very blessed. I started this rugby league ride in 1998 and to be still here, I feel very proud of that.

“I’m really looking forward to enjoying the week, taking it all in with my team-mates.”

At the Halliwell Jones Stadium in Warrington, the Fijians were far too good and led 12-0 before Samoa got on the scoresheet, with their forwards laying the platform and wingers Akuila Uate and Marika Koroibete excelling.

Although there is room to improve, Fijian coach Rick Stone was pleased with the efforts of all his players, especially with the experienced NRL players and how they stood out.

“We didn’t play perfectly in every aspect of the game but to only let in one try was a massive boost for us,” Fiji coach Rick Stone said. “I’m really proud of the boys.

“All our experienced NRL players stood up for us today.”

There were no excuses from Samoan coach Matt Parish, who admits that Fiji were the better side and that his side was outplayed.

“We didn’t play that well but overall I’m happy with the tournament,” said Parish.

“Unfortunately we came up against a better team on the day but personally, it has been one of the best five weeks of my life.”

Slater injured as Kangaroos demolish the Tomahawks in quarter finals

Jarryd Hayne

It was one-way traffic for the entire game as the Kangaroos cruised to victory with a resounding 62-0 win over the Tomahawks, but it was an injury to fullback Billy Slater that was the main talking point.

Despite aggravating an old knee injury, coach Tim Sheens is hopeful that his tournament is not over but concedes that Slater is likely to miss semi-final clash.

“It’s an injury to his old injury – PCL,” said Sheens.

“It’s just what damage may have been done, cartilage and other things.

“We’re just hoping it’s a bad knock but we’re sending him for an MRI tonight.

“We’ve still not given up the thought that he might possibly be available, probably not this week after that sort of knock, the week after if we get that far.”

There are plenty of options for fullback with Slater out, with both Jarryd Hayne and Greg Inglis producing stellar performances – who scored 4 tries and 2 tries respectively, as well as piling on the stats – so the Kangaroos are in good hands at fullback.

“We’ve got a few full-backs actually who can play the game. It’s a still a big loss for us,” added Sheens.

“I’m not going to panic just yet until we get (the results of the MRI). The issue is the knock and how much damage it’s done.”

Sheens was pleased that his side managed to keep another clean sheet, their second of the tournament after a 50-0 drubbing of Ireland in the group stages.

“I think we showed plenty of determination in defence. I think we have the best defensive record in the competition at the moment,” he said.

“We had our pants pulled down early by England (in their opening game) and we’ve determined that won’t happen again, so we’ve really worked hard on that aspect of our game.

“It comes behind a kick-chase game. I was happy with the way we continued to put the pressure on the USA.”

Despite being beaten comprehensively, there was one that thing that USA Tomahawks coach Terry Matterson still had – pride.

Pride in his team and proud of their efforts to make it as far as they did, against the odds.

“I suppose a bit of relief that that game’s over, they’re a wonderful side that we played against,” said Matterson.

“I’m no less proud of these boys for what they’ve done. We’re focusing on what we’ve done in the campaign and reaching the quarter-finals.

“What we’ve done over the last four weeks has been very special and I’ll always hold those players to my heart.

“I’ll always remember and we’ll always have a very strong bond.”

SBW taken off as a precaution as New Zealand thump Scotland

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck

Despite the best efforts from Stephen Kearney to hose down any speculation regarding a potential injury to key back-rower Sonny Bill Williams, the talk is still there as Kearney says it was merely a precaution and nothing more.

With the New Zealand side putting in a strong showing and building on their solid form so far in the World Cup, things are building nicely for the Kiwis after their 40-4 win over the Scottish side.

“All the players who came off were taken off as a precaution because we had got ourselves into a position where we were able to do that,” said Kearney.

“Now we will assess them over the next week.

“It was a pretty good performance because it has been a tough week of preparing for the match.

Set to play the winner of the England v France game, the Kiwis now wait with bated breath as to who their opponents will be.

“Everyone expected us to get the result, so the lads have done very well in preparing properly and completing the job.

“We knew Scotland would throw a lot at us early on but we handled it and now we turn our attentions to watching the England versus France match.”

For Scotland, whilst it was a spirited effort, there was just too much firepower from the Kiwis and the Bravehearts could not match it.

Regardless of it all, it is an overall effort that the Scottish rugby league community can be proud of, with the nation making it to the quarter finals for the first time in their history.

For coach Steve McCormack, he knows that the key moving forward is to continue their development as a rugby league nation.

“Everything about this tournament has been excellent for Scotland but now it’s important we move forward from here,” he said.

“We got to the quarter-finals for the first time in our history and we the lads have given everything in this tournament, I’m very proud of them.

“We expected New Zealand to be that good – they are a world-class team and I think it will take a good side to beat them.”

Samoa beat France as Agar calls for improvement from his French side for crucial finals clash

Pita Godinet

It was the final game of the group stages at the Rugby League World Cup and one that Samoa took out, as they defeated France 22-6 at Perpignan.

With both sides already guaranteed places in the finals, it was a question of building momentum and it was the Samoans who built most of it, led to victory by Anthony Milford and Pita Godinet.

The forwards laid the required platform and were too much for the French defence to handle but French coach Richard Agar knows if they are to have any chance of defeating England, they need to improve astronomically.

“I thought we had enough opportunities to win the game three times,” said Agar.

The French did have their chances to win but poor errors let them down as well as some bombed tries and as a result, the Samoans capitalised when they had their chances.

“We bombed what looked like certain tries. Our skill level and our execution and the wasted plays we had in the final third of the field didn’t warrant us winning the game,” said Agar.

“It was a disappointing performance from us, particularly in the second half.

“We’ve got to improve. We did some really good things in the first 40 but the level of our performance in the second half is why the scoreboard reads like it does, will need a bit effort and a big lift for next week but if we can play our best football on the day, who knows?”.

For the Samoans, who recorded their second consecutive win, they will take on fellow in-form Island nation Fiji, in what is billed as one of the games to watch.

It was not all rosy, however, with three Samoan players placed on report – one of them twice in Sauaso Sue – and a sin-binning but despite all that, coach Matt Parish was pleased that his side got the win.

“The French are a very good team and they certainly showed some good attack but I’m immensely proud of the way my team defended and the way they worked for one another,” Parish said.

“It’s never easy to come here and win. I’m very proud.”

Cook Islands hold off late Welsh fightback and win their first ever World Cup game.

Dylan Napa

There is a first time for everything and for the Cook Islands, after six attempts to do so at the World Cup level, they have won their first game – a 28-24 win over Wales.

They were made to work hard for it, though, as the Welsh fought back valiantly towards the end of the game but the Cook Islands held on for a historic first win in the World Cup.

It was a commanding performance from the Kukis early on as they raced out to a 22-4 lead before relinquishing it but still holding on for the win, as coach David Fairleigh reflected on what was a huge day for his players.

“It is good we have finished on a winning note. We were disappointed losing against America, it was a game we should have won, and then we missed a couple of opportunities against Tonga,” he said.

“There was some really bad defence by us in the second half, but today was our day. It is a big day for the Cook Islands, their first win in a World Cup.”

For Wales, it was a tournament to forget, as they failed to win any of their group games.

Despite that, there were some stellar patches of football from them and even with a poor overall World Cup performance, coach Iestyn Harris knows that there are some positives to take out of the game and the tournament.

“I think our pack is very good and solid and within the next four years, they are going to be formidable,” the former dual-code international said.

“We probably lacked a bit of quality in terms of execution on the edges and it is about going away from the World Cup and seeing what we have to do to improve.

“We are doing a lot of work with our youth policy, so there is a lot being done. Hopefully, over the next three or four years, we will see the fruits of our labours come through.

“We have got some very good quality, we probably just needed a little bit of direction throughout the World Cup.

“We probably lacked that one dominant person to steer us around the field, but that is not a negative against anyone because they did absolutely everything they could do to be at their best.”

For Harris, he knows that the key to gaining success down the track is playing to the right intensity and having the right players involved.

“Whether it is me or whoever else does the work over the next three or four years, it is about getting the players used to that type of intensity and being comfortable with it,” said Harris.

Australia’s big win over Ireland gives coach Sheens some selection headaches

Andrew Fifita

Whilst the big win is one that the Kangaroos will take and look to build on, the task for Tim Sheens to pick his best side moving forward will not be an easy one, with several positions still up in the air.

After a strong showing from players that were not initially named in the opening game, it gives Sheens selection headaches – but the veteran coach says that come the game against the USA Tomahawks, he will field his strongest side.

With Australia adopting a fringe rotation throughout the World Cup, Sheens will pick the best 17 so far.

“I didn’t get any injuries so I’ve got to come close to picking probably our best 17 on the next game,” Sheens said.

“It’s a real headache for me because we’ve got so many guys playing well.

“I’ve got a couple of contentious positions in particular but we’ll work on that during the week.”

Despite the big win over the Irish side, the Australians lacked cohesion and fluidity at times and Sheens puts that down to the constant chopping and changing of the side – a fault of his own.

“I blame myself a bit for that,” Sheens said.

“…. All the halves have had a couple of runs, they’re as cranky as hell about that as I know they’re all competitive.

“But at the end of the day we’ve achieved after the three pool games to lead our pool and we’ve played pretty well.

“I think we can play better so I’m hoping we’ll improve that.”

For the Irish side, whilst the tournament was not a great one in retrospect – the Irish side lost all three of their pool games – coach Mark Aston was pleased with his side’s effort.

“It was always going to be tough. We were playing high-quality opposition,” he said.

“But I’m proud of what we served up. They had double the sets we had and the penalty count played a big part. It’s hard enough playing the best in the world without not getting the bounce of the ball and the rub of the green.

“But we stuck in, had a dig and showed character.”

With rugby league in Ireland still a developing sport, Aston knows that the challenge is getting players to come on board from Union and immerse themselves in the league culture.

“We’d like a level playing field and we only got together three Saturdays ago,” he admitted.

“There are 48 development officers for rugby union in this area alone. How can we get them to play rugby league? But we will be smart and do what we can.

“Tonight we needed to make sure we were loud and proud and we were.”