Rugby League World Cup holders Australia look to make it back-to-back triumphs this year, as they host the showpiece event. Seemingly unstoppable in recent years, they’re priced at just 2/9 to lift the trophy.
So, do the tournament’s dark horses have any real chance? With the action beginning later this month, we take a look at the hopes for the three most likely challengers to Australia’s throne…
Despite a talented squad, the English don’t have history on their side in major tournaments. They haven’t reached a World Cup Final since way back in 1995, and disappointed at the last major tournament – 2015’s Four Nations.
Their last outing saw Wayne Bennett’s men breeze past Samoa with a 30-10 victory in Campbelltown, but while they’ll probably see off sides of that calibre, beating the likes of New Zealand and Australia is a far different ask.
Admittedly, they did edge out the Kiwis in 2015’s Baskerville Shield. However, having failed to beat the Kangaroos in 11 meetings, dating back to 1995, England will have to defy history to come good on their 13/2 for tournament glory.
It’s not impossible, but the chances of England lifting the trophy down under do look pretty slim.
New Zealand (8/1)
The Kiwis have lifted silverware since then, winning the 2014 Four Nations in imperious fashion. They defeated Australia twice – including a 22-18 Final victory.
That’s in addition to two victories over England twice en route to lifting the trophy. But that’s then, and this is now…
David Kidwell’s men haven’t beaten the Aussies in the past three meetings, and were fortunate to beat England 17-16 in last Autumn’s Four Nations – their only tournament victory.
There’s a number of talented, experienced campaigners in their squad. The likes of Thomas Leuluai, Adam Blair, and Simon Mannering are top-class players who’ve led the Kiwis to huge victories on a number of occasions. Australia will be very tough to topple, but at 8/1 to win the tournament, they’re certainly a tempting price.
Tonga narrowly missed out on reaching the knockouts in the 2013 tournament, beating Italy along the way. However, they’re equipped to go further this time around, with a fair bit of quality in the squad.
A number of those on board have prior experience for New Zealand, including Salford Red Devils ace Manu Vatuvei and talented Second Row Manu Ma’u. That could prove vital if they face the current Kiwis crop on 11 November, in the final Group B game.
However, the number of recent recruits to the Tongan cause mean this side haven’t played together a whole lot, and lack some cohesion. There’s a good chance they’ll make it out of the group, but a World Cup 2017 trophy seems pretty implausible.
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All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing