Mal Meninga: This World Cup can ignite international rugby league

Mal Meninga Australia PA

Legend Mal Meninga says this World Cup can be the platform for international rugby league to hit heights that it has never reached before.

The Australia coach has assembled another star-studded squad that heads into the competition as favourites to retain the title they secured again by beating England five years ago.

But the emergence and strength in depth of Tonga and Samoa, alongside the expected challenge of host nation England, makes Meninga believe this event could prove a pivotal moment in rugby league’s history.

“I believe this tournament could kickstart the international game,” Meninga told Love Rugby League.

“We have great depth across the nations with five or six teams capable of winning it which is unheard of in the rugby league world. We have made players make decisions about their allegiances and that means they will play with passion.

“October and November will now become the opportunity to play the international game.”

Mal Meninga confident in uncapped Kangaroos

Meninga has included 13 debutants in his latest Kangaroos side, who head into the tournament as favourites. Other than New Zealand in 2008, no other nations than Australia has won the World Cup since the 1970s when England competed as Great Britain. Meninga is fully expecting his latest crop of stars to step up on the world stage.

“They may not have test experience but they have plenty of NRL experience,” he added. “And all but one has State of Origin experience.

“I’m not worried about experience anyway. The team is well balanced in all positions and have great adaptability. I think we have a really strong depth in the squad.

“I’m excited for the game and for the team.”

Australia open their title defence against Fiji at Headingley on Saturday. The Fijians are looking to bounce back from a bruising 50-0 warm-up match against England that left four players with tournament-threatening injuries.

Scotland and Italy complete a group that the Aussies are expected to dominate.

More World Cup content

Fiji camp hit with injuries as head coach recovers from illness

We were forced to do that: Mal Meninga defends Australia squad number controversy

Tonga’s Jason Taumalolo proud of Samoa stars for representing heritage

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