Starts: Friday 28th October 8pm – Final Sunday 20th November 2:30pm
Venues: Lightstream Stadium, Hull. John Smith’s Stadium, Huddersfield. Ricoh Arena, Coventry. Zebra Claims Stadium, Workington. London Stadium, Olympic Park. Final – Anfield Stadium, Liverpool.
England are the sole hosts as the Four Nations embarks on its fifth chapter of the competition.
This time around England, Scotland, Australia and New Zealand are the participants, with the British sides hoping to make history by becoming the first non-Australasian team to win a Four Nations series. The tournament has seen its share of thrilling games since its launch in 2009, which has seen England reach two finals, but Australia and New Zealand share the spoils with two wins each in its history. It is England’s third bout as hosts, and with a change of venues including a new home for the final, the home soil and bumper crowds could be an advantage for the English and Scottish teams.
The tournament sees a towering list of debutants to International Duty with 26 fresh legs added across the four teams. Strong performances in the domestic season has opened some great opportunities for currently uncapped players to get some game time for Country as well as club.
Scotland have included Wigan’s Lewis Tierney, who has cemented his name into the first team in recent time due to his versatility and quick feet on the field. Huddersfield’s Ryan Brierley also features, having become a household name during his time at Leigh Centurions and following suit with some strong performances for the Giants. Wests Tigers’ Tyler Cassel is also a great new addition to the Scotland squad in the second row.
England have four uncapped players coming into the squad, including Scott Taylor who helped Hull FC towards a historic Challenge Cup win at Wembley earlier in the year. Luke Gale also features, offering options at scrum half for Wayne Bennett’s side. Chris Hill will be one to watch in the England side, a regular for the Warrington Wolves and a strong playmaker, he has been an essential asset for his club this season, and potentially can be the same in his International stint.
Australia’s seven debutants include a prolific first cap for Sydney Roosters captain Jake Friend, the influential Hooker is no stranger to leading a team and could do just so for the Kangaroos this time round. A true leader, Jake has been key to some of the Roosters forward thinking and try scoring this season, you would expect him to be a real unsung hero in the Australia side over this series.
New Zealand have welcomed five new names to their squad, in a bid to allow younger players to gain some experience ahead of the next World Cup. Solomone Kata is one of the exciting names on that list, the young Centre has impressed in his time at the New Zealand Warriors, earning his call up to International Duty for the Kiwis. Joseph Tapine is another young but glorious prospect for the Kiwis side, the teams will have to be well aware of his presence as a forward with some fancy footwork.
With so many new names added to the four squads, and some new managerial efforts to look forward to; what can we expect from the Four Nations this year?
In terms of standard, it is shaping up to be one of the best International tournaments, with all four teams naming strong squads with plenty to offer. It could be a real step up from the 2013 Rugby League World Cup, which saw Australia and New Zealand dominate throughout, and with the improvements to all four teams, there is sure to be a load of exciting fixtures.
If there is one thing that we can almost guarantee, it is that the final will not be one to miss. Rugby League takes to one of England’s iconic stadiums, the first Rugby game to take part there. Anfield is a stadium that allows the atmosphere to dominate due to its build, something which the players will soak up on the pitch. No matter who the finalists may be, the crowds will certainly create a huge aura of intensity around the place.