RLWC Preview: New Zealand


Currently ranked as the best Rugby League nation in the world, New Zealand will be hoping to win just their second ever World Cup.

The Kiwis have always had a star-studded side on international level, but they might never have a better chance at silverware than in this year’s tournament.

Although star names such as Benji Marshall, Issac Luke and Shaun Johnson, may not be with the team anymore, the Kiwis have entered a new era of fresh young talent that has propelled them up the rankings to be the tournament favourites.

To add to their joys, their neighbours Australia, the most successful country ever, will face a few issues this tournament. Many of their star players have opted to represent smaller nations. Furthermore, they have a serious lack of game time playing together as a country, with many people backing a new winner of the competition in 2022.

New Zealand won the tournament back in 2008, only two more editions of the World Cup have been held since. In 2017, they were knocked out in the quarter finals of what turned out to be a very disappointing competition for them.

Since then, the level of the nation has been rising under coach Michael Maguire, with new star players like Melbourne’s half-back Jahrome Hughes entering the frame. Hughes was asked how he saw the tournament panning out for his side this year:

“We didn’t do too well at the last World Cup, but there’s been a little bit of change with the coach and the players coming through so we’re confident in ourselves, and the team that we have here now is good enough to win it.

The coach holds us to really high standards. Although we might be favourites and expected to win these games, we can’t just go in lightly because we’ll get our pants pulled down.”

Hughes then added:

“To take the World Cup back to our country would be great for us and the people at home, it would be such a Joy for the whole of New Zealand.”

Another one of the Kiwis stars, Joseph Manu, was asked if he thought this was New Zealand’s best chance at a World Cup, and best squad they have fielded since 2008. He replied by saying:

“Well, they were a pretty great team, I’m not one to say what we have now is better, but we have some boys that have had a great year and I’m confident in what we have got. I’m really looking forward to seeing what we can do.”

New Zealand face a huge task to equal their achievement in 2008, with the sport growing since then, the competition is fiercer than ever. Smaller nations like Samoa and Tonga have improved massively up to put themselves further into the mix.

Manu was exited at the prospect of a more competitive World Cup and a tougher challenge:

“This World Cup will probably be the most competitive, it’s really exiting for rugby league fans, to have the prospect of maybe five teams that could win it. It should be a great competition for the boys.”

New Zealand will play Lebanon, Ireland and Jamaica in the group stages starting on Sunday for them.

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