Last time when Australia hosted the World Cup tournament, it was New Zealand who upstaged the Kangaroos in the final. Can Australia redeem themselves on home turf this time around?
WHAT TO EXPECT
The Australian Kangaroos will step into this World Cup as the current holders for the first time since the year 2000 while being heavy favourites to go all the way to win with the matches being held in their own backyard. The coach Mal Meninga in his first major tournament outside of the Four Nations will no doubt look to experiment and use the versatility he has culminated with his side to have the best lineup come the back end of the World Cup.
The Kangaroos have one of the easiest pools coming into this event in only playing one team inside the top five of the world in that being against England. The Australians will be dominant during the group stages with both seasoned veterans for the green and gold jersey and a few new players wanting to stake their claim for the starting team positions. The team will be tested once the finals roll around having to then be certain their top side has materialised to produce the wins and have the capability of lifting the trophy at the end.
There will be many players in each squad in the World Cup that will be significant but when it comes to the Kangaroos the key two that will decide how far the side will go in the tournament will be captain Cameron Smith and halfback Cooper Cronk. Both players coming into the affair having just won the premiership in the national rugby league, these Storm and Queensland representative players will impact heavily in the make-up of the final team and the results they produce.
Cooper Cronk finishing his career at the Melbourne Storm plays his final games as a Kangaroo but with the halfback having a stellar year for club and state the playmaker will have a key role in Australias fortunes. The situation now for the side without champion half in Johnathon Thurston being ruled out is the amount of pressure on Cronk to produce the clutch moments without his State of Origin partner and previous five eighth with the nations side. Cronk will have the choice between Michael Morgan, James Maloney or club halves partner Cameron Munster to aid him but even then the workload and decisions to shape each match will fall upon the halfback. Knowing the caliber of Cooper Cronk and the way he can work under pressure in all situations he will come out on top even when paired with new team mates and challenges.
The other key player that will factor heavily in the success of this side will be none other than Kangaroos captain Cameron Smith. Just coming off a Dally M and premiership winning year the skipper will be crucial in all facets of the tournament, having been there before in previous world cups and lifting the trophy in 2013 as captain Smith will need to go to another level and steer this side as well as he can. The smarts of the Australian hooker will edge out majority of his competition every time in both attack and defence but without many familiar faces in the side he will now have to draw upon his club team mates Billy Slater and Cronk to help lead the side without veterans like Thurston and Inglis. The spectacular year Smith has produced so far in 2017 has been an incredible display and with that confidence throughout the year it will be hard to see the best player this season not leading the Kangaroos to another World Cup win.
The World Cup will be an interesting and highly entertaining tournament with even more sides bolstered by quality players more so than previous years.The Kangaroos with some new changes and experts still in the side the Australian side will find their feet eventually within the event, with a somewhat easy run through the group stages its where their squad will take shape. When the side is in must win territory the likes of Cronk, Smith and Slater will navigate this side to victory. The host side is strong and as versatile as it has been for many years, the class across all positions in addition to the adaptability of the backline and forwards will make them unstoppable with the World Cup going to current holders in the Kangaroos once more.
Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Will Chambers, Boyd Cordner (vc), Cooper Cronk, Josh Dugan, Tyson Frizell, Dane Gagai, Matt Gillett, Wade Graham, Valentine Holmes, Ben Hunt, Felise Kaufusi, David Klemmer, Josh McGuire, James Maloney, Josh Mansour, Jordan McLean, Michael Morgan, Cameron Munster, Billy Slater, Cameron Smith (c), Jake Trbojevic, Tom Trbojevic, Aaron Woods