By Gregor Hynds
THIS has been an exciting time for Rugby League. Often left in the shadow of the popularity of Rugby Union, the game based in the north of England looks set to add to the success that English sport has had this summer. League currently have a chance to claim the World Cup. With both the women’s and men’s teams looking to break-out of the shadow of Union. As they both progress at the tournament being co-hosted in New Zealand, Australia and Papua New Guinea .
After failing on home soil four years ago the men will look to go all the way this year, especially with some for the sports leading teams falling earlier in the tournament. The men’s team are preparing for a huge important semi-final against Tonga, a nation who have only recently started expand into the sport. But already have an impressive win over the All-Blacks in the group stages, in a tournament being held by the Rugby juggernaut. Tonga also dismantled Scotland, winning by a 46 point margin against the Brave Hearts.
England will be worried about a slip up, but with talent players such as Sam Burgess and Brother Thomas Burgess to boast, they will feel confident on progressing to the final of the World Cup. Where they look set to meet old rivals Australia.
Australia are arguably the only other big nation left in the World Cup, the defending champions will look to re-capture the trophy on home soil, with the final being held in Brisbane. The Aussies still need to get past a Fijian side that have been in inspired form, joining Tonga in beating the All-Blacks in Wellington.
Both sides have added a lot of interest to this year’s World Cup, playing some fantastic rugby and gaining the support of all neutral fans. But many expect the final to be between the defending champions and the English, who look to name an unchanged squad for the semi-final against Tonga, with the only doubt being stand-off Kevin Brown. The Warrington Wolves player will need to pass a set of medical tests after being knocked out in the win over Papua New Guinea. Gareth Widdop looks set to replace him if the fails the tests.
While the men work towards the semi-final, the women are looking to bounce back after a shock defeat to the Cook Islands last in the early hours of this morning. Thankfully the ladies had already done enough to put themselves through to the semi-final, where they wait to who they will play.
England are carrying the flag for the home nations, as the only team that travelled to the tournament being co-host between New Zealand, Australia and Papua New Guinea. The women have looked strong till last night, but rallied to almost win the game in the dying stages of the game.
Still the women will be glad this happened now as they will look to rebound and not give away an early lead again. Overall this has been a big year English rugby, with teams in both forms of the game looking strong, male and female. This provides a chance for the sport based in the north to take a stand on its own, with World Cup glory only 160 minutes away.
Both teams can take confidence in the fact they go into the semi-finals with strong defences, as the women have the most made tackles in the tournament and the men are second to already eliminated Lebanon. Looking to emulate the strong years from their family in union