23.09.2022
Aussie mind games fool no one – they’re huge favourites at RLWC but England fancy crack at Kangaroos

The Rugby League World Cup will feature 16 nations competing in 31 matches in the men’s competition, but it will boil down to one very difficult question: How do you beat Australia?

The Kangaroos are the mighty force in international Rugby League and before the tournament has even begun, they are huge favourites to win in England, when the finals are played here through October and November.

Australia’s dominance – some bookies are offering odds of 3-1 on – stems from the popularity of the game down-under, which dwarfs every other nation, even England, and translates into more money, power and better players.

However, stout English hearts hold hopes of an upset – despite Australia making 14 of the 15 finals since the tournament began in France in 1954, and the fact they have lifted the trophy on 11 of those occasions.

England coach Shaun Wane has talent and battle-hardened experience to choose from as he seeks to upset the odds, including NRL stalwarts, second row, Elliott Whitehead, 32, who has made 154 appearances for Canberra Raiders and prop Tom Burgess, 30, who has amassed 207 outings for the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

‘[I] imagine Shaun Wane’s expectation is: We lift the trophy,’ said England legend James Graham, who holds the record number of appearances for the national side and has played at three World Cups, including a defeat in the final to Australia in 2017. ‘That’s it. That’s got to be the expectation.

‘How you get there is a different story,’ added Graham, who made his name at St Helen’s before moving to Australia where he played for Canterbury and St George Illawarra. ‘That’s about growing the belief within the camp.’

The former forward told The Roar in Australia: ‘The long-term expectation is to win the trophy, we use our strengths: like the crowd, like the forward pack, like the classy touches out wide.

‘I’m excited. I’m not going to get too carried away because it’s going to be a very difficult tournament and you need the stars to align sometimes but I’ve got the upmost confidence in this England team… the potential is there to go all the way.’

England’s latest outing was an 18-4 win over the Combined Nations All Stars at the Halliwell Jones Stadium at Warrington in June. It was only Wane’s third match in charge of the Three Lions in two years, as a result of the Covid pandemic.

There were bright performances, not least from Catalans Dragons full-back and England skipper Sam Tomkins, and the win was achieved without the Aussie exiles Whitehead and Burgess.

England have one more warm up to play, against Fiji in Salford on October 7.

At the World Cup, England will be backed by a boisterous home crowd with the country developing a taste for success following the Lionesses victory at Euro 2022 and a strong showing in the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

In truth, there are at least four teams who will fancy a swing at the Aussies, with New Zealand installed as second favourites, followed by Tonga, England and Samoa. Papua New Guinea are also expected to be competitive and Fiji have reached the semi-finals at the previous three tournaments.

Australia, of course, are trying to persuade anyone who will listen that they are definitely not the favourites for the tournament, which kicks off on October 15 when England play Samoa at St James’s Park in Newcastle.

The basis of the Aussies’ claim is the International Rugby League World Rankings.

The Kangaroos are now ranked fourth, with New Zealand in top spot followed by Tonga and England, but only because the Covid pandemic has limited the number of international matches. The rankings are based on results over the past four years.

Even Troy Grant, the IRL chairman, has admitted the current rankings are ‘skewed’.

But Australia assistant coach Adrian Lam is happy to use them as extra motivation and an opportunity to play a few mind games.

‘We’re not favourites for this World Cup at the moment,’ said Lam this week.

‘There’s a lot of pressure on Australia this year,’ he added. ‘[Australia] are ranked fourth…

‘It is something that doesn’t sit right with Mal Meninga (head coach) and the team and the players no doubt. We’ll make sure we’ll give it a good crack.’

There are only two sides in this competition that have ever won it: Australia and New Zealand. Great Britain has won the World Cup, in 1954, 1960 and 1972, but now the home nations compete individually.

The Kangaroos stranglehold on the sport reflects the numbers playing and watching in Australia.

According to International Rugby League, Australia had 178,000 registered players in 2021, compared to 44,000 in England, 28,000 in New Zealand and 25,000 in Papua New Guinea.

Greece, who are in England’s group and play the hosts at Bramall Lane, Sheffield, on October 29, have only 170 players.

The NRL also commands much greater viewing figures than any other nation.

The NRL Grand Final last year achieved a TV and online audience of almost 3.6 million, compared to the Super League Grand Final, which drew an estimated 400,000 viewers on Sky.

Inevitably, this translates into sponsorship and wages, which allows the NRL to attract the top talent from around the world and create the highest-quality competition, as well as sharpening the skills of the native players.

The salary cap for a club in the NRL in 2022 is £5.5m, compared to £2.1m in the Super League.

When Australia faced England in the 2017 final, the bookmakers’ made the Kangaroos 5-1 on and their opponents 13-2 against, such was the Aussies’ dominance in the sport.

However, Australia only just edged the final at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, beating England 6-0 in a tight and nervy affair.

And there is more hope for Australia’s challengers this year as players continue to elect to represent their heritage nations.

At the last World Cup in 2017, prop Andrew Fifita, who had played for Australia, and lock forward Jason Taumololo, who had represented New Zealand, both accepted invitations to play for Tonga.

This time around, second-row New Zealand-born Felise Kaufusi has played for Tonga and Australia, but has pledged to turn out for his heritage nation at the World Cup.

Prop Josh Papali’i was born in New Zealand, moved to Australia at the age of five and went on to claim 11 caps for the Kangaroos, but he has now chosen to represent Samoa, along with Sydney-born Penrith Panthers winger Brian To’o.

‘When players are sticking their hand up and choosing Samoa or Tonga, what happened with Fifita and Taumololo in 2017 was the start of that and it’s a tidal wave,’ Rugby League World Cup chief executive Jon Dutton told loverugbyleague.com.

‘We now start off with five men’s teams who legitimately based on selections could lift the trophy. That is super exciting.’

Although Dutton admits it is also ‘a bit daunting’ for English hopes.

Even so, England have been placed in the easier side of the competition draw in that they avoid the two strongest teams. If they overcome Samoa and win Group A, they will expect to meet Papua New Guinea or Tonga in the quarter finals, and one of those three in the semi finals, assuming they progress. Australia and New Zealand are in the opposite half of the draw.

If England should come up against their old rivals Australia in the final, they will be looking for their first win in 14 meetings. England’s last triumph was in the group stage of the 1995 World Cup, although they subsequently lost to Australia in the final.

Since 1975, the Three Lions have only won two Test matches against the Kangaroos, losing 13 and drawing one out of 16 encounters.

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  • 24 минуты назад 03.10.2022Sport
    JJ Watt is in tears as he reveals the Cardinals’ win means ‘a little more’ after heart scare

    JJ Watt said he appreciated the Cardinals win a little more after a scary and emotional week that saw the defensive star endure a heart scare.

    Watt took the field Sunday afternoon just three days after having his ‘heart shocked back into rhythm’ after going into Atrial fibrillation.

    Watt made the shocking admission at roughly midday ET on Sunday, and was on the field hours later for the Cardinals as they took on the Panthers, securing a 26-16 win.

    Speaking after the game, Watt was visibly upset and was in tears as he revealed the win was a nice end to an emotional week for him and his family.

    ‘Obviously, it’s been a very emotional week for my family, for my wife, for myself,’ Watt said.

    ‘So, I’m very happy to get a win today. Obviously, I’ve had a lot of emotions, but I’ve learned to appreciate the little things even more and so it’s nice to have a win today.’

    According to the CDC, Atrial fibrillation – commonly called ‘A-Fib’ or AF – is ‘when the heart beats too slowly, too fast, or in an irregular way’.

    It occurs due to the blood not flowing as well as it should from the atria to the lower chambers of the heart, and it can occur as a one-off episode or as a permanent condition. It is currently unclear whether Watt’s situation is the former or latter.

    Watt said he considered not playing Sunday against the Panthers but after talking with cardiologists and electrophysiologists, he was told and assured multiple times that it was safe for him to play.

    ‘It’s tough,’ he said. ‘My wife was by my side all the time. So, that helped a lot, and then, just, I didn’t know what else to do. I have been playing this game my whole life. They said I was fine. So, once my heart was reset, they said, ‘You’re fine. If you feel comfortable.’

    ‘I’d probably be more uncomfortable sitting on my couch at home. You know, this is what I know. Right or wrong. Maybe that’s messed up, but if I was sitting at home watching the boys play and knowing that they said I was perfectly fine to play, I would have felt weird, so, I just did what I know.’

    He took to Twitter Sunday afternoon to break the news, claiming that he was only sharing the health update because it had been leaked to the media.

    He revealed the leak was especially upsetting as it had to have come from someone he ‘should trust’ and insisted he was irritated as he didn’t want it to take away from his team’s performance.

    ‘The only people that knew were people I should trust,’ Watt said. ‘And, so, injuries, I don’t care. If you leak injuries, whatever, that’s football. But this one was very emotional for me so it upset me.’

    He added: ‘Boys played good today. I don’t want to take away from them. A great game, the boys played a great game. [I’m] grateful to be out there with them. That’s partly the reason why I’m upset that it leaked because I didn’t want to take away from them.’

    Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury revealed didn’t know what atrial fibrillation was until he was told about Watt’s condition but said Sunday that tight ends coach Steve Heiden had it a couple times and explained it.

    ‘Just a scary deal for everybody,’ Kingsbury said. ‘But I’m glad it got figured out. He seems better than ever.’

    ‘Shows you what type of person and competitor, human being he is,’ Kingsbury said. ‘He’s special and we were all obviously worried when he wasn’t around for a couple of days getting the tests run and handling that but I think it was definitely inspiring for all of us and he played at a really high level and he just continues to amaze, the type of person and player he is.’

    The former Houston Texans star missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday for what the Cardinals reported as ‘calf/illness’ on their injury report.

    The NFL star has consistently struggled with injuries over the last few years of his career, missing 10 games of the 2021 season with a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder.

    In 2019 he missed eight games with a torn pectoral, and in 2017 he fractured his tibia and had to sit out the final 11 games of the season.

    This heart issue is seemingly not something Watt wants to keep him sidelined, despite fans and fellow players appearing concerned in reply to his Sunday tweet.

    Quarterback Robert Griffin III wrote: ‘Life is bigger than football. Glad you are OK,’ while one fan commented: ‘You’re a young man who’s already made enough money to support your children’s children and you’re going to play 5 days after essentially having a heart attack? What’s the matter with you guys? This toxic masculinity is shameful.’

    Watt’s injury comes at a time when the NFL is under heavy scrutiny for allowing players to continue despite problems, after Miami Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailova was allowed to play on Thursday night.

    The quarterback suffered a heavy hit to his head the previous Sunday but passed concussion checks to return four days later, only to suffer another serious blow, resulting in him being taken off on a stretcher.

    In the wake of that incident, the NFLPA fired the medic who cleared Tagovailova to play in the second game.

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  • 2 часа, 22 минуты назад 03.10.2022Sport
    Robin Goodfellow’s racing tips: Best bets for Monday, October 3

    Sportsmail’s racing expert Robin Goodfellow delivers his tips for Monday’s meetings at Windsor, Pontefract, Stratford and Wolverhampton.

    WINDSOR

    Newmarket – 2.02 Fanciful (nb); 5.32 Kirilenko (nap).

    PONTEFRACT

    Northerner – 1.25 Midnight Lion (nb); 3.05 Wynford (nap).

    STRATFORD

    WOLVERHAMPTON

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  • 2 часа, 23 минуты назад 03.10.2022Sport
    Amos Kipruto wins the men’s 2022 London Marathon as Yalemzerf Yehualaw clinches women’s gold

    After the fall came the rise. Not many athletes can climb up from a face-plant to win the London Marathon but Yalemzerf Yehualaw is rapidly emerging as a runner who does not conform to the usual standards.

    The Ethiopian’s victory across two hours, 17 minutes and 26 seconds on Sunday was staggering, both in her revival from tumbling over a speed bump six miles from the tape, and also in what it heralded, with the 23-year-old becoming the youngest winner of this race in history.

    That it was only her second ever marathon, six months after winning her first in Hamburg, would indicate she has a better shot than most in her stated ambition of one day breaking the 2:14.04 world record of Brigid Kosgei.

    ‘I had a dream to be a professional athlete and to run in these races,’ she said. ‘I am so happy to win on my first time in London. London people were shouting a lot and it inspired me.

    ‘I am thinking of the longer plan I have that I would like to break the world record.’

    Kosgei, the dominant Kenyan athlete, was among the many leading names who withdrew injured ahead of this race, which cleared a sizeable hurdle for Yehualaw. However, another presented itself after 20 miles, when she lost around 25metres on the leading group of eight when she fell hard over the speed bump.

    ‘I hurt my hip and knee,’ she said, before a member of her team confirmed she bumped her head as well. Despite that setback, she reeled the pack in and by the 24th mile it had become a two-woman showdown with the defending champion Joyciline Jepkosgei.

    That was when Yehualaw ran a storming mile of four minutes and 43 seconds, the quickest ever recorded in a women’s marathon, and left the Kenyan in her wake. Her time was the third fastest in the 42 years of the race.

    The men’s event was won by Amos Kipruto in 2:04.39 after breaking three miles from home. The leading British runner was ninth-placed Waynay Ghebresilasie, who carried the flag for Eritrea at London 2012 before seeking asylum here.

    The 28-year-old said: ‘Before the 2012 Olympics my country was not in a good situation, that’s why I stayed in Britain. I was in Sunderland and then moved to Birmingham and I’m in Scotland now.

    ‘My plan is to run at the World Championships and the Paris Olympics for Great Britain.’

    Meanwhile, Eilish McColgan, who pulled out because of blood sugar issues that are exacerbated over the marathon distance, set a new European 10km road record by clocking 30:18 at the Great Scottish Run.

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  • 2 часа, 23 минуты назад 03.10.2022Sport
    JJ Watt returns to field just THREE DAYS after having his ‘heart shocked back into rhythm’

    JJ Watt took the field Sunday afternoon just three days after having his ‘heart shocked back into rhythm’ after going into Atrial fibrillation.

    Watt made the shocking admission at roughly midday ET on Sunday, and was on the field hours later for the Cardinals as they took on the Panthers.

    According to the CDC, Atrial fibrillation – commonly called ‘A-Fib’ or AF – is ‘when the heart beats too slowly, too fast, or in an irregular way’.

    It occurs due to the blood not flowing as well as it should from the atria to the lower chambers of the heart, and it can occur as a one-off episode or as a permanent condition. It is currently unclear whether Watt’s situation is the former or latter.

    Yet Watt took his usual position Sunday on the defensive line for the Cardinals, with one total tackle at the time of writing.

    The three-time defensive player of the year said earlier Sunday that he was only sharing the health update because it had been leaked to the media.

    Writing to his 5.6million followers, he said: ‘I was just told somebody leaked some personal information about me and it’s going to be reported on today.

    ‘I went into A-Fib [Atrial fibrillation] on Wednesday, had my heart shocked back into rhythm on Thursday and I’m playing today. That’s it.’

    Watt is currently in his second season with the Cardinals, and appears to have been deemed healthy by medics to play in North Carolina for the Week 4 match-up.

    The former Houston Texans star missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday for what the Cardinals reported as ‘calf/illness’ on their injury report.

    The NFL star has consistently struggled with injuries over the last few years of his career, missing 10 games of the 2021 season with a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder.

    In 2019 he missed eight games with a torn pectoral, and in 2017 he fractured his tibia and had to sit out the final 11 games of the season.

    This heart issue is seemingly not something Watt wants to keep him sidelined, despite fans and fellow players appearing concerned in reply to his Sunday tweet.

    Quarterback Robert Griffin III wrote: ‘Life is bigger than football. Glad you are OK,’ while one fan commented: ‘You’re a young man who’s already made enough money to support your children’s children and you’re going to play 5 days after essentially having a heart attack? What’s the matter with you guys? This toxic masculinity is shameful.’

    Watt’s injury comes at a time when the NFL is under heavy scrutiny for allowing players to continue despite problems, after Miami Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailova was allowed to play on Thursday night.

    The quarterback suffered a heavy hit to his head the previous Sunday but passed concussion checks to return four days later, only to suffer another serious blow, resulting in him being taken off on a stretcher.

    In the wake of that incident, the NFLPA fired the medic who cleared Tagovailova to play in the second game.

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  • 2 часа, 23 минуты назад 03.10.2022Sport
    Terry Bradshaw reveals he has battled bladder and skin cancer in the past year

    Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback, Terry Bradshaw, has shared he has been diagnosed with cancer twice over the last year.

    The Fox NFL Sunday co-host and football favorite concerned fans during an appearance on the show last week and has now revealed he has endured bladder and skin cancer.

    ‘Last week on this show, I ran out of breath, and Howie (Long) helped me up, and a lot of people are asking what’s wrong with me, what’s happened to me physically,’ Bradshaw said on Sunday’s NFL pregame show.

    ‘I just want to address it and let you know what has happened in my life. In November, I was diagnosed with bladder cancer.

    ‘I went to the Yale University Medical Center – surgery, treatment. As of today, I am bladder-cancer free. That’s the good news.

    ‘Then in March, feeling good. I had a bad neck. I get an MRI. Now we find a tumor in my left neck.

    ‘And it’s a Merkel cell tumor, which is a rare form of skin cancer. So I had that surgery done at M.D. Anderson in Houston.’

    Bradshaw, 74, played 14 seasons for the Steelers and is a four-time Super Bowl Champion, a two-time Super Bowl MVP and one-time regular season MVP.

    ‘Folks, I may not look like my old self, but I feel like my old self. I’m cancer free, I’m feeling great. And over time, I’m going to be back to where I normally am.’

    Former New York Giant and fellow Hall of Famer Michael Strahan had kind words for Bradshaw. ‘You are the ultimate teammate. We love you,’ he said.

    ‘We’re just so happy that you’re here and we’re happy that you’re cancer-free and I think you’re going to give hope to a lot of people out there who are going through something similar.’

    In typical Fox NFL Sunday fashion, the compassionate, loving tone didn’t last long before Strahan injected some humor at the expense of the former Steeler.

    ‘I’m also just curious why it took this for people to ask what’s wrong with you after all these years?’

    Bradshaw and his colleagues erupted in laughter before host, Curt Menefee added: ‘There’s some of us that have been asking it for several years!’

    The 74-year-old is married to his wife, Tammy, and has two daughters, Rachel and Erin, and a step-daughter, Lacey.

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  • 2 часа, 23 минуты назад 03.10.2022Sport
    Ravens cornerback Marcus Peters has to be held back from head coach John Harbaugh

    Peters reportedly left the field screaming before attempting to confront Harbaugh as Buffalo readied for the field goal which gave them a 23-20 victory on the road.

    The 29-year-old was then said to have thrown his helmet in fury as he watched on. Harbaugh was seen yelling, seemingly toward Peters, before CBS cameras cut back to Bills kicker, Tyler Bass.

    Cameras then turned to Peters, who was enraged, attempting to get closer to his head coach.

    Following the game, Harbaugh attempted to quash the disagreement as nothing more than a part of football.

    ‘Emotions run high. We’re on the same page,’ Harbaugh told reporters post-game.

    ‘We’ve got a great relationship, we’ve got an honest relationship. I love him, hope he still loves me, we’ll see.’

    Baltimore gave up 20 unanswered points after charging to an early 20-3 lead. What may have incensed Peters further was Harbaugh’s decision to go for a touchdown on fourth and goal on the Ravens’ last possession after their altercation.

    Instead of a chip shot field goal which could have given Baltimore a 23-20 lead with just over four minutes remaining, Harbaugh went for it from the two-yard line.

    ‘I thought it gave us the best chance to win the game,’ Harbaugh said. ‘It didn´t turn out that way and unfortunately, and we lost the game.

    ‘Hindsight, you take the points. But you look at it analytically, you´ll understand why we did it.’

    Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson threw an interception, giving Buffalo an opportunity to go down the field and win the game, which they duly took.

    Following the loss, Baltimore hold a 2-2 record, tied with Cleveland who sit first in the AFC North.

    Buffalo’s late victory avoided a two-game losing streak and keeps them on pace with AFC East rival, Miami at 3-1.

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Sport Aussie mind games fool no one - they're huge favourites at RLWC but England fancy crack at Kangaroos