The Rugby League World Cup has been outstanding but as we head into the knockout stages there is plenty of reflection on the highs and lows of the tournament thus far.
The tournament has been watched by over 10 million viewers on BBC since the tournament’s opening game between England and Samoa whilst attendances continue to average at around 6,000 whilst fans pile in for England’s fixtures with 84,000 fans attending England’s three games.
However, there are always going to be complaints. For instance, some have criticised the attendances and have claimed that ticket prices are too steep during a cost of living crisis.
Meanwhile, others have complained about the lack of competitive games thus far in the tournament including high profile Australian journalist Andrew Webster of the Sydney Morning Herald.
He fears for Australia’s chances in the tournament after only playing “glorified training runs” so far in the tournament with dominant wins over Fiji, Scotland and Italy as they head into the quarter-finals against Lebanon.
Not only does he think this means the Aussies could enter their semi-final with likely opponents New Zealand “soft” but he feels that it makes it difficult for Mal Meninga to know his strongest side.
“I am a little bit worried,” Webster said on SEN.
“Australia has just had glorified training runs the whole tournament when you really think about it.
“I was watching the game against Italy the other morning and some of those early tries were catch and pass training drills.
“There was just a little bit more stiffness in the defence.
“I will be interested to see what happens against Lebanon in the quarter final.
“If they lap Lebanon in the quarter final like you expect them to do, they go into a semi against New Zealand pretty soft.
“When we are celebrating one Italian try like they scored an equalising try, I found it to be a bit of a doddle to be honest.
“We got nothing out of it as they were hardly up against the stiffest of opposition.
“Mal said he had a dream about what the team looked like. That’s an interesting take on it.
“He didn’t say what was in that dream.
“If he doesn’t pick Nathan Cleary as the halfback then he’s deadset dreaming.”
It is part of a growing narrative down under with publications like Stuff NZ claiming that the group stage has “exposed” the gulf in class between the Southern Hemisphere and Northern Hemisphere.