The Rugby League World Cup
The Rugby League World Cup kicks off later this month, as New Zealand look to retain the title for a second time. The Kiwis defeated Australia 34-20 in 2008 to win their first ever World Cup, however the Kangaroos will be looking for revenge as they seek to lift their tenth world title.
This year the tournament is being hosted in UK and Ireland, with the final taking place at Old Trafford, Manchester on 30th November. The first game will see Australia face England at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff on 26th October, the last meeting of these two teams in 2011 ended 8-30 to the Kangaroos.
There are 14 teams taking part in the tournament: England, Australia, Fiji, Ireland, New Zealand, France, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Scotland, Tonga, Wales, Cook Islands and debut appearances for Italy and United States.
Australia, who are reigning Four Nations champions and will go into the tournament as clear favourites. The Kangaroos have appeared in every Rugby League World Cup final since the inaugural competition in 1954. The latest rugby odds show Australia are 1/3 (1.33) to win the tournament out right with New Zealand and England priced at 5/1 (6.0) and 6/1 (7.0) respectively.
If you fancy putting money on an outsider to upset the bookmakers predictions, you can find odds of 100/1 (101.00) upwards on all the other nations.
New Zealand have the quality, power and pace to match Australia but they have to ensure there are no slip-ups in the group stages. They face Samoa, Papa New Guinea and France in their first fixtures, teams that will be seen by many as the 'best outsiders' in this year's competition.
The England team will face Fiji and Ireland, which on paper are matches they can win comfortably, but they also play Australia in the first game of the tournament. As England are second favourites this result should set the level of expectation for the fans, a good performance could see a close fought contest for the top teams throughout the tournament. England will also have the advantage of playing on home soil in some great venues, hoping that this support will provide them with an extra push to make 2013 their year.
The way that the tournament is organised also provides England with a good chance of avoiding Australia until the final, if they both qualify. The tournament is split into four groups, with four teams in Groups A and B, these teams are the highest ranked nations. The winners of Group C and D, which have three teams each in them, will join the top three from the other groups and progress into the knock-out rounds.
The question remains, will anyone be able to halt the favourites Australia as they aim for World Cup success again?