World Cup Round 1: Five things we learned

(Image credit - englandrl.co.uk)

The 2017 Rugby League World Cup got underway at the weekend and there were a couple of surprises along with some big talking points.

ENGLAND CAN COMPETE WITH THE BEST

The 18-4 scoreline flattered Australia but England were very good in the opening game of the World Cup on Friday. The Three Lions played most of the game with a man less on the subs bench after Sam Burgess left the field and did not return. Hooker James Roby was on the bench as welly so England only had two forwards to interchange which would have been difficult, especially in heat that a lot of the team aren’t used to.

We are not making excuses though. England were good but Australia were just slightly better but if the teams were to meet again in the tournament, England fans would be much more optimistic in coming away with the win than going into the game last week.

TONGA ARE THE REAL DEAL

Tonga have been the talking point in the world of Rugby League since Jason Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita switched allegiances from New Zealand and Australia respectively. On paper, they have a great squad full of NRL stars with a couple of Super League players as well.

They took that paper and put it to the test against Scotland. The Bravehearts are currently ranked fourth in the world behind Australia, New Zealand and England but Tonga trashed them 38-8 so they proved that they are a force to be reckoned with this year.

MORE SHOULD BE DONE FOR RUGBY LEAGUE IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA

The scenes in Port Moresby for the game between Papua New Guinea and Wales were outstanding. We all know that they are the only country in the world with Rugby League as their national sport but just seeing how much passion there is in PNG is great to see.

The Kumuls’ game against the Dragons was sold-out, with 14,800 spectators watching on. Papua New Guinea will play all of their group games in Port Moresby which is great for the sport but more should probably be done there, a full World Cup competition or a Four Nations tournament would be the ultimate goal but even a couple of Tests per year.

THE ‘WEAKENED’ KIWIS AREN’T SO WEAK

Prior to the tournament kicking off, a lot of people were talking about how New Zealand’s squad was much weaker than what it normally is, with a couple of players having switched allegiance to Tier 2 nations this autumn but the Kiwis beat a strong Samoa outfit 38-8 on Sunday.

Shaun Johnson absolutely bossed the game along with half-back partner Kodi Nikorima. Full-back Roger Tuivasa-Sheck had a number of exciting moments in the game and Super League’s only representative in the team, Tommy Leuluai, played well at hooker. New Zealand certainly look up for the next couple of weeks and look strong competition for Australia and England.

PLAYING AS A TEAM RATHER THAN INDIVIDUALS

There were a couple of surprises in the opening round of fixtures and arguably, Ireland cruising past Italy 36-12, was the biggest of the weekend. The Azzurri have a team full of NRL talent and were the favourites to win but Ireland put in a fine team performance.

Italy boast a team full of high level individuals, none more so than full-back James Tedesco, who was very nearly selected by Australia. However, the difference in the game was how well Ireland played as a team. They were led around the pack excellently by Liam Finn and you could see from watching on that the Wolfhounds team spirit was in a good place.

What did you think of the opening weekend at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup? Did anything catch your eye? Let us know in the comments below.

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