WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE DRAGONS
Wales have a tough ask in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup, drawn in Group C against Papua New Guinea, Ireland and playing Group D team Fiji. With just one team from Group C advancing to the quarter finals, the Pacific teams will be a big mountain for the Dragons.
PNG will be embiggened by the Hunters’ Queensland Intrust Super Cup success and have all three games at home while Fiji have Jarryd Hayne; hate on the Hayne Plane all you want, but he’ll surely have a positive impact for Fiji. Playing in Port Morseby (Saturday 28 October v PNG), Townsville (Sunday November 5 v Fiji) and Perth (Sunday November 12 v Ireland) is a big disadvantage for Wales, as they’ll likely struggle in the hotter climates, especially in the back end of games. In good news, fourteen of the seventeen who beat Italy (in October 2016) to qualify for RLWC 17 are in the squad, so at least they’ll have some cohesion.
Wales were winless in the 2013 RLWC after making the semi-finals in 2000 and 1995. They missed the 2008 RLWC and haven’t played in Australia since 1975. Their last World Cup win was 24-22 against Lebanon in November 2000.
While Wales have no NRL experience to call on, they’ve drawn from the UK Super League, with captain Craig Kopczak and vice captain Philip Joseph (Salford Red Devils), Regan Grace, Ben Morris and Morgan Knowles (St Helens) and Sam Hopkins (Leigh Centurions). They also have a couple Queensland Intrust Super Cup players in halfbacks Josh Ralph (Tweed Heads Seagulls) and Matt Seamark (Wynnum Manly Seagulls).
Captain Kopczak, with a decade’s experience in England (Bradford, Halifax, Huddersfield, Salford) will be vital to keeping Wales competitive while Rhys Williams will be the Dragons’ try scoring hope, with 18 tries in 24 Tests.
HOW FAR WILL WALES GO?
It’s hard to see Wales getting past the group stage. To be any hope, they must beat PNG in their Port Moresby opener, then beat either Fiji or Ireland, though it seems unlikely. Hopefully they can get one win (probably against Ireland) and avoid a second straight winless World Cup.
Courtney Davies, Steve Parry, Chester Butler, Danny Ansell, Sam Hopkins, Michael Channing, Ben Evans, Dalton Grant, Elliot Kear, Rhys Williams, Joe Burke, Gavin Bennion, Ant Walker, Craig Kopczak, Matty Fozard, Andrew Gay, Christiaan Roets, Regan Grace, Morgan Knowles, Ben Morris, Rhodri Lloyd, Josh Ralph, Phil Joseph, Matty Seamark.