The year ahead: Rugby League

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The Independent Online

This should be the year when Great Britain finally win their first Test series against one of the major powers since 1993.

That was when New Zealand were last defeated and, when the Kiwis arrive in autumn, they should find themselves facing a home side with the personnel and the preparation to beat them again.

The Great Britain coach, David Waite, is not everybody's cup of tea, but there were enough signs of progress in the series against Australia to suggest that a New Zealand team deprived of Henry Paul will struggle to hold them.

The departure of Paul is also a factor in assessing the coming Super League season, but, while he will undoubtedly be missed, the addition of Brandon Costin and Lesley Vainikolo to last season's Grand Final-winning squad makes Bradford still look the best-equipped side.

Wigan and St Helens present the most obvious threat to Bradford's bid for back-to-back titles, although Leeds, if their overseas players stay healthy, must be stronger than last time. In the Challenge Cup, Wigan are overdue reclaiming what was once theirs as a matter of course in the final at Murrayfield.

Huddersfield should win the Northern Ford Premiership and reclaim their place in Super League. An ambush by Leigh in the play-offs is the biggest danger and Wakefield are the logical favourites to replace them by travelling in the opposite direction – as they were, admittedly, before the start of last season.

Prediction: David Waite to lead Britain to victory.

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