Unsurprisingly the bookies have hosts Australia very short at 1/4 to win the World Cup which gets underway on Friday, when the Green and Gold take on Wayne Bennett’s England.
The hosts are 1/14 just to reach the final, and despite the very short odds it’s very hard to argue a case for any of the other sides in the tournament to beat the favourites. They have far and away the most talented squad, State of Origin gives them such an advantage at representative level, not that they should need any help .
Either Queensland or New South Wales would be comfortable favourites to win the tournament on their own and Mal Meninga has the luxury of picking the best from both sides, and he’s certainly done that.
There has been a few defections to the Island Nations, Jarryd Hayne is in the Fiji squad, but these are more likely to hurt New Zealand as the tournament favourites have such a pool of talent to pick from.
England are next in the betting at 8/1, Wayne Bennett’s plans took a knock when a drugs ban ruled out Zak Hardaker but Jonny Lomax should be a reliable deputy. What the Wall of White do have is a very powerful pack, possibly the strongest in the tournament with the likes of Sam Burgess and James Graham to call on.
England play Australia in Fridays opener and a win would open up a favourable route to the final and whilst you can’t see that happening you do feel they are in a better place than the Kiwis to get to the Brisbane final on December 2nd.
England are 5/4 to get to the final and that is probably value if they can find the form that comfortably beat Samoa a few months ago.
With France and Lebanon the other 2 sides in the group England will comfortably qualify for the 1/4 finals, especially as 3 of the 4 teams qualify from groups A and B.
France are 4/6 to claim a quarter final spot with Lebanon 11/10.
The Kiwis have suffered some big name defections, most notably Jason Taumalolo’s decision to play for Tonga.
The defections will certainly open up the tournament but have done the 2008 winners no favours and I even think they could be pipped by a star studded Tonga to win Group B. The Kiwis are around 10/1 to win the tournament and 4/6 to win the group of death, that contains themselves Tonga, Samoa and Scotland.
The Tongans are real tournament dark horses at 25/1, and whilst they are still behind England and Australia for me they can finish top of their group.
They may lack a touch of quality in the halves but have top NRL talent all across the park with the likes Taumalolo and Michael Jennings from the NRL and the likes of Ben Murdoch-Masila from Super League.
A win in Group B would see them skip the hosts until the final and a possible semi final with England but finish 2nd and they will probably meet Australia in the semis.
6/1 for Tonga to reach the final does seem very generous but they’d probably have to win their group to avoid Australia, so the 5/2 to top the group would be more likely for me.
I’d favour England to beat them in a semi final, but there’s no doubt Tonga are a,real threat. It’s good to have another side with a realistic chance of success.
The 3rd side who should qualify from Group B are Samoa, they are 80/1 to win the competition and 50/1 to reach the final.
They should beat Scotland to get out of the group but their journey will end in the quarters for me.
You can get 8/1 for Samoa to win Group B, but they looked a class below when getting well beaten by England in May.
Scotland are 4/1 just to make the Quarters but this side isn’t the same as the one that had a famous draw with New Zealand 12 months ago.
One team qualifies from Group C and one from Group D and Papua New Guinea look nailed on at 1/4 to win the former.
They play all 3 Group games at home and should qualify with something to spare.
They will probably come up against England in Melbourne in the last 8 and that’s where their tournament could end.
Ireland and Wales are both 11/1 to win Group C.
Group D looks much tighter with Fiji favourites at 4/6 and Italy 7//4, these 2 sides look very well matched but Fiji with the likes of Naiqama and Hayne to call on may just edge it.
Brian Mcdermott’s USA are the 3rd side in the Group, with their Inter group game being in PNG they may struggle to win a game and this is shown by the 25/1 odds for them to win the group.
You have to win Group C and D to reach the quarter final and in places there are better odds on teams reaching the quarters than winning the group, so it always pays to shop around.
So it’s an Australia v England final for me, we’ll have betting reviews for all the games. It should be a fabulous festival of our great game as always please gamble responsibly.