You see, besides France, there are no rugby league nations that could even dream of beating these three big nations. That is an entirely different matter though, a matter which I won't be discussing in this article.
First of all, I will explain a little about the history of the tournament before I talk about the upcoming series. In 1999, the first ever rugby league tri nations series was held. It featured the same nations as above, and it was held in Australia and New Zealand. Great Britain performed very poorly in that tournament, losing both their games to Australia and New Zealand, by 42-6 and 26-4 respectively. Australia contested the final against New Zealand at Ericsson Stadium in Auckland, New Zealand, which Australia narrowly won 22-20.
The whole concept of the tri nations series turned quiet until 2004, when there was a new push for it. This time, it was going to be held in England. The tournament was a success in terms of popularity, and even though Australia beat Great Britain by 44-4 in the final, Great Britain played some superb footy to show the league world that it had finally come out of it's nest. The tournament would continue in 2005, also in Great Britain. All teams performed well, but Great Britain did not manage to make it to the final. It was contested by New Zealand and Australia at Elland Road in front of a capacity crowd. New Zealand, against all odds, had crushed Australia 24-0, Australia's first series defeat of any kind since 1978. The win was good for rugby league, as Australia were no longer the world champions. The concept had become a success.
In 2006, the tournament will be held in Australia and New Zealand. It will kick off in 10 days time, on the 14th October. It will feature New Zealand at home against Australia. Here are the other fixtures
Game Date Teams Venue City Crowd 1 14 October New Zealand v Australia Mt Smart Stadium Auckland – 2 21 October Australia v New Zealand Telstra Dome Melbourne – 3 28 October New Zealand v Great Britain Jade Stadium Christchurch – 4 4 November Australia v Great Britain Aussie Stadium Sydney – 5 11 November New Zealand v Great Britain Westpac Stadium Wellington – 6 18 November Australia v Great Britain Suncorp Stadium Brisbane – Final 25 November 1st v 2nd Aussie Stadium Sydney –
My prediction for the tournament
After having a look at the squads for the nations, I have to say that Australia look strongest on paper. With such strong backs and forwards, such as Matt King, Justin Hodges, Greg Inglis, Mark Gasnier, Darren Lockyer, Jonathan Thurston, Willie Mason, Petero Civoniceva, Mark O'Meley, Andrew Ryan and Nathan Hindmarsh, I find it hard for Great Britain and New Zealand to get close to them. I just think they have too much pace, creativity, depth and strength and test match experience compared to the other nations. However, having said that, New Zealand and Great Britain are quality sides, so one must never write them off. But Australia are at home (so as New Zealand) so it would be hard to go against them at home. They are settled to the conditions, they know the grounds inside out, they will have the majority of the fans and another thing, they wont have to contend with jet lag!
If New Zealand and Great Britain are going to have any chance of winning, they are going to have to develop a new way of trying to beat Australia. Great Britain especially have to focus on this point, as they have failed so many times during recent years to defeat the Aussies. New game tactics will have to be inserted. In my opinion, I think Great Britain will struggle the most, because they will not be used to the Australia conditions.
Which ever team wins, I am sure this series will be a total blockbuster. There will no doubt be exciting matches, featuring lots of big hits, spectacular tries and plays. Even though I am predicting a total blowout at the hands of the Australians, I still think all nations will put on a great show for us.
By Justin Ryan