Rugby league fans up and down the country will be licking their lips as the best on the planet gear up to contest the Rugby League World Cup.
With all bar three teams priced at 125/1 and bigger, it is certainly fair to say that a trio of nations are the most likely candidates to claim glory. Let’s have a look at the countries in question.
The favourites to lift the trophy at 1/3, and quite deservedly so. With an embarrassment of riches it will be hard not to see Tim Sheen’s side contesting the final at Old Trafford on November 30th.
Made up entirely of players plying their trade at home in the NRL, Melbourne’s influential trio of Cameron Smith, full back Billy Slater, and this season’s Dally M medal winner Cooper Cronk are sure to be pulling the strings.
Throw in the power of Greg Inglis, the influence of Jonathan Thurston and the strength of Sam Thaiday and the Aussies will be a force to be reckoned with.
As if they didn’t need any more bigging up; the four times the World Cup has come to these shores, the Kangaroos have triumphed on each occasion.
Despite the sheer strength of the Australian squad, this is not a foregone conclusion. You only need to go back to the last World Cup in 2008 to see that the Kiwis are no slouches either.
A 34-20 victory over their neighbours in the final in Brisbane saw them become only the third nation to lift the cup. They are priced at 4/1 to retain their title and could be worth a small interest, especially considering they have contested the last two finals.
They too have a strong NRL influence throughout their squad. Hard hitting Canterbury Bulldog Krisnan Inu is sure to announce himself to the UK fans, while Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has been ever-present throughout an excellent season for the Sydney Roosters.
A semi-final appearance is sure to be a bare minimum for head coach Stephen Kearney.
With the two big guns from the southern hemisphere dominating the betting, you could be forgiven for thinking a bet on England at 6/1 is just blind patriotism. But they should have more than enough to give a good account of themselves.
The hosts last reached the final back in 1995, but even the likes of Andy Farrell and Martin ‘Chariots’ Offiah couldn’t prevent a defeat at the hands of the Aussies.
But in this squad, the Three Lions have a good basis to mount a home challenge.
Sam, George and Tom Burgess have performed admirably in the NRL for South Sydney and could be the stars. And with some of the Super League’s top names in Sam Tomkins, Leroy Cudjoe and Kevin Sinfield donning the white jersey, England have a fighting chance of causing a minor upset. First up though, a nice simple opener against Australia on October 26th.
All odds and markets correct as of the date of publishing