Former St Helens star and now BBC rugby league pundit Jon Wilkin has had his say on how the Rugby League World Cup has been marketed.
The much-anticipated tournament kicks off this Saturday with over 350,000 tickets sold for matches across England over the next five weeks.
Those stats for the first World Cup on home soil since 2013 were revealed last week, with many more tickets expected to be sold over the coming days.
As we know, this competitions has been five years in the waiting, with the original start date this time last year pushed back to 2022 due to travel fears from the Australian Kangaroos.
However, good things are worth waiting for, which is the attitude of Wilkin who told the BBC 5 Live Rugby League Podcast that he has been very impressed by the promotion around the tournament.
“This has been marketed as well as a I think a big tournament could be,” said Wilkin. “The messaging that has come out from the tournament has been exceptional.
“I think Jon Dutton (Rugby League World Cup Chief Executive) himself has grown into be an incredible leader which is what you need when you’ve got a tournament like this.
“I think there were times when we had delays, it was been pushed back and there was a bit of animosity between the NRL and the competition, at that time the diplomancy and the statesman like stature that Jon Dutton showed was a connecting force.”
Discussing the tournament itself, and in particular England’s chances, Wilkin remains cautious about tipping a home success due to the damaging injury list boss Shaun Wane must contend with.
After making Samoa slight favourites for the opening game at St James’ Park on Saturday, Wilkin detailed the reasons why he thinks Wane’s side may find things difficult.
He said: “England looked clunky in their matches against the Combined Nations, but I think they have got a reason to be more fluent that Samoa in the first game of the competition.
“The question mark is what impact the players that aren’t playing might have? You look at Mark Percival, Alex Walmsley and Jonny Lomax, who have had standout seasons for St Helens, with them missing there is an opportunity for somebody else, right?
“But Alex Walmsley’s punch up front will be missed, especially when you are looking at them playing Samoa who have got Papalii and Paulo up front and that competition, for me, could be where this game hinges.
“I think England have got a lot to be confident about. I think it is easy to be confident and optimistic now is what I’m saying, the measure will be in three or four weeks time whether they still feel the same way.”