Roll up and glory in the best

Rugby League will never have a better chance to capture the imagination than during this World Cup. Starting, as it is, on the back of a fantastic Super League final between St Helens and Wigan, this competition should raise the profile of the game. The tournament is the biggest sporting event of the next few weeks, so I am hoping the game will get the coverage it deserves.

Rugby League will never have a better chance to capture the imagination than during this World Cup. Starting, as it is, on the back of a fantastic Super League final between St Helens and Wigan, this competition should raise the profile of the game. The tournament is the biggest sporting event of the next few weeks, so I am hoping the game will get the coverage it deserves.

One thing that is absolutely sure is that the quality of the matches will be very high. I just hope the fans take the chance to go down to the stadiums to see the game at first hand. I would travel a long way to have a look at the Australian team, so to have them on our doorstep is very exciting.

They have not played in Britain for quite a while, so people should grab this rare opportunity to see some great players, like Brisbane's Darren Lockyer, who I think is the world's best full-back.

Australia are the firm favourites for the World Cup, and quite rightly so. They are a long way ahead of everybody else and have consistently proved they are the best around. It will take a monumental effort to stop them, and perhaps only New Zealand, with the Paul brothers, or England, with Andy Farrell, have the quality to be able to do it.

There is little doubt that the whole credibility of the tournament rests on the England-Australia match on Saturday evening at Twickenham. If Australia were to romp away with it, the risk is that the fans would then switch off from the tournament as a whole. League is like any sport, you don't want to go to a match knowing who the winner is.

The big question being asked over here is whether it would have been better for the four home nations to compete under the Great Britain banner, rather than individually. This is a tough issue. On the one hand, I believe that the decision to let England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland field separate teams will help boost the profile of the players in their respective countries. On the other, I am convinced it has severely dented Britain's chances of winning the event.

I know that England would have provided the majority of the Great Britain side anyway, but it is those five or six non-Englishmen who would have made all the difference. Having guys like Keiron Cunningham and Iestyn Harris of Wales, or Ireland's Tommy Martyn and Terry O'Connor, alongside the best English players would be like being able to pick Ryan Giggs to play on the left wing of the England football team. These players add that little something special to the side.

Other players to keep an eye on during the World Cup are the Lebanon's Hazem El- Masri, who I have seen play for my old team the Canterbury Bulldogs, and Adrian Lam, the Papua New Guinea winger who plays his club rugby for the Sydney Roosters. They are just two examples of excellent players whose teams could cause an upset or two.

Like all tournaments, some results are foregone conclusions. I would not be surprised, for example, if Australia put 100 points past Russia. Conversely, I wouldn't want to have to predict the winner of the New Zealand Maori-Samoa match up in chilly Cumbria. Look out also for the powerful Tongans.

Having played in the 1995 World Cup, I know exactly how special an event this is. Matches are quick, brutal and exciting. Not only that, but you also never quite know what's going to happen, as there are always five or six teams who are capable of performing on their day.

Wales' semi-final defeat by England at Old Trafford five years ago was my last rugby league match. I was sad not to make it to the final, but the World Cup is the ideal place in which take your final bow. There is no bigger stage.

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