NRL.com's World Cup predictions

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Updated: October 11, 2017

With the Rugby League World Cup kicking off this month the team at NRL.com have made their bold and not-so-bold predictions ahead of the tournament.

Who will win the 2017 Rugby League World Cup? 

Tony Webeck, Chief Queensland Correspondent: A Kangaroos team without Johnathan Thurston, Darius Boyd, Matt Scott and Greg Inglis doesn’t look quite as fearsome as years gone by but the Aussies should still be too good.

Dominic Brock, Production Editor: Australia.

Chris Kennedy, National Correspondent: As much as I can see a few teams being competitive, it’s hard to see anyone denying Australia the trophy.

Martin Gabor, National Correspondent: Australia.

Alicia Newton, National Correspondent: Australia. Heavy favourites and can’t see it going any other way.

Eden Richards, Queensland Correspondent: Australia.

Corey Rosser, New Zealand Correspondent: Australia. The defending champions have the best roster and a culture which will see them through.

Andrew Marmont, Melbourne Correspondent: Australia.

Which team will they beat in the final? 

Tony Webeck: England. Think they have the forward strength and creativity to win their likely semi-final match-up with the Kiwis.

Dominic Brock: England.

Chris Kennedy: England look the most likely to make the final but New Zealand and Tonga are also very realistic chances.

Martin Gabor: England.

Alicia Newton: New Zealand. Despite missing some key men, their squad still boasts big names and history shows they get better as the tournament goes on, especially on home turf. 

Eden Richards: England.

Corey Rosser: England. Coming off another year under coach Wayne Bennett, and likely to face a depleted New Zealand side in the semi, they should be good enough for second.

Andrew Marmont: England.

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How far will the star-studded Tonga side get? 

Tony Webeck: So much hinges on the Samoa v Tonga match in Hamilton. The loser of that game should face the Kangaroos in the quarters, which would be curtains for either team. I’ll say they make the semis.

Dominic Brock: Semi-finals.

Chris Kennedy: They could definitely make the final and anything less than a semi-final will be a disappointment.

Martin Gabor: Semi-final.

Alicia Newton: I have them in to reach the final four with a strong forward pack led by Jason Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita, but their halves depth is the biggest issue for the tournament so anything below a semi-final appearance wouldn’t surprise. 

Eden Richards: Quarter-final.

Corey Rosser: Likely to finish second in Pool B and face Fiji in the quarter-final, who they will beat before losing to Australia in the semi.

Andrew Marmont: Semi-final.

Which four teams will win their group? 

Tony Webeck: Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Fiji.

Dominic Brock: Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Italy.

Chris Kennedy: Australia, Tonga, Wales, Fiji. 

Martin Gabor: Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Fiji.

Alicia Newton: Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Fiji.

Eden Richards: Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Fiji.

Corey Rosser: Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Fiji.

Andrew Marmont: Australia, Tonga, Wales, Fiji.

Which pool match are you most looking forward to? 

Tony Webeck: Samoa v Tonga in Hamilton. Will be a showcase of everything that international rugby league can be.

Dominic Brock: New Zealand v Tonga, just ahead of Tonga v Samoa.

Chris Kennedy: If you’d asked me a month ago I’d have said the November 4 clash at Waikato between Tonga and Samoa because any time those two meet it’s always incredible. But given recent events the one I really can’t wait for is New Zealand v Tonga a week later at Waikato. Taumalolo, Taukeiaho, Ma’u, Vatuvei and co (not to mention Fifita, Jennings and more) up against the Kiwis will be epic. 

Martin Gabor: Waikato Stadium will be the place to be on November 11 when New Zealand takes on Tonga in a game that will most likely decide top spot in Pool B. Throw in the added spice of Jason Taumalolo turning his back on the Kiwis and this one shapes as the most tantalising of the pool games. 

Alicia Newton: An obvious one, but New Zealand v Tonga in Hamilton now shapes a bitter clash after the omission of Taumalolo and heated words from Kiwis captain Adam Blair and former half Benji Marshall on the lock-forwards’ exit from the Kiwis set-up. 

Eden Richards: New Zealand v Tonga.

Corey Rosser: Samoa v Tonga. Played just an hour outside of Auckland – which has the largest Polynesian population of any city in the world – this game will go off.

Andrew Marmont: Australia v England.

Which player are you most looking forward to seeing in action? 

Tony Webeck: Watch highlights of Jarryd Hayne playing for Fiji at the 2008 World Cup and you will see why he was the game’s best player 12 months later. It will be fascinating to see whether he can use this World Cup as a springboard to recapturing former glories.

Dominic Brock: James Tedesco could light things up for Italy against the USA and Fiji, and I wouldn’t be stunned if he carried Italy into the knockout stages.

Chris Kennedy: Any of the big stars turning out for a second tier nation – e.g. Taumalolo, Fifita, Jarryd Hayne and James Tedesco for example – I’ll be hoping to see have a big tournament. James Segeyaro returning to PNG after a long absence is exciting. I’m also really pleased to see St Helens prop Alex Walmsley get an England guernsey after flying out here for the May Test then not getting a start, he’s had a massive two years. Needless to say any of the Aussie debutants like Felise Kaufusi, Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Wade Graham and Tom Trbojevic I can’t wait to see get a start.

Martin Gabor: It might sound boring but the answer has to be Cooper Cronk. While his future beyond 2017 remains undecided, this could very well be the last time we get to see him play. Enjoy it while you can. 

Alicia Newton: Too many! It’s a tournament where Dane Gagai makes his international debut after a stellar State of Origin series, and the return of a player like former Raiders five-eighth Terry Campese for Italy, and James Segeyaro representing Papua New Guinea again – the stories are endless.

Eden Richards: Tevita Pangai Jnr (Tonga).

Corey Rosser: Manu Vatuvei. The Beast was well below his best before leaving for the Super League mid-season, but has since found some form and will be fired up to represent Tonga in what could be his final games on New Zealand soil. 

Andrew Marmont: Luke Gale (England). 

Which country/countries are you most looking forward to seeing play? 

Tony Webeck: Given the success of the Hunters in the Intrust Super Cup by hosting three matches at home Papua New Guinea have a great chance to progress to a quarter-final for just the second time and for the first time since 2000. Tonga, Samoa and Fiji will also deliver plenty of spectacular highlights.

Dominic Brock: Tonga, Samoa and Italy.

Chris Kennedy: Tonga, Fiji and Italy. 

Martin Gabor: A lot has been made about the looming threat of the beefed up Pacific nations, but I’m really looking forward to seeing how Italy fares. With a star-studded forward pack led by Nathan Brown and Paul Vaughan, just imagine what James Tedesco will do if he can get some early ball from Terry Campese and co.  

Alicia Newton: Wayne Bennett’s tenure as England coach and their style of play under him, and PNG hosting games in Port Moresby will be a sight for the tournament. 

Eden Richards: Tonga, Samoa and PNG. 

Corey Rosser: Papua New Guinea. Fresh off the SP Hunters winning the Intrust Super Cup, the Kumuls’ three games at home will be huge and they should play some tough and skilful footy which will be great to watch.

Andrew Marmont: England.

Who will be player of the tournament? 

Tony Webeck: He was the player of the Grand Final and Billy Slater will be the player of the World Cup.

Dominic Brock: It could be Michael Morgan if he gets the No.6 for Australia. Otherwise someone obvious like Cameron Smith.

Chris Kennedy: It’d be brave to tip against Cam Smith after the season he’s had.

Martin Gabor: It wouldn’t surprise to see Billy Slater add player of the tournament honours to his already absurd comeback year, but I’m tipping his Storm skipper, Cameron Smith, to get revenge after narrowly missing out on the Clive Churchill Medal. 

Alicia Newton: Jake Trbojevic (Kangaroos) – I think he’s in for a big one.

Eden Richards: Cameron Smith.

Corey Rosser: Cameron Smith.

Andrew Marmont: Luke Gale.

Who will be the top try-scorer? 

Tony Webeck: Valentine Holmes or Suliasi Vunivalu.

Dominic Brock: Valentine Holmes.

Chris Kennedy: I’m tipping a massive tournament for Tom Trbojevic. He can score tries from centre, wing or fullback and should feature in most games.

Martin Gabor: It’s a toss-up between Valentine Holmes and Dane Gagai. I’ll pick the Cronulla speedster to nab six tries for the tournament.  

Alicia Newton: Jordan Rapana.

Eden Richards: Billy Slater.

Corey Rosser: Valentine Holmes.

Andrew Marmont: Valentine Holmes.

This article first appeared on NRL.com.

Source: http://www.bulldogs.com.au/news/2017/10/11/nrl_com_s_world_cup_.html





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