Rugby League World Cup: BBC Sport’s experts on the ‘game-changing’ tournament

Winger Dominic Young will win his first England cap in Newcastle’s World Cup match against Samoa on Saturday.
Hosts: England Dates: From October 15 to November 19
Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer and online; Live commentary from Radio 5 Live and Sports Extra; Live texts and highlights on the BBC Sport website and app

“Inspirational”, “game changing” and “something very powerful”; We asked our experts for their verdict on the upcoming Rugby League World Cup.

You can watch all 61 matches of the men’s, women’s and wheelchair events live on the BBC.

The postponed 2021 tournament kicks off on Saturday when England men host Samoa at 2.30pm BST in a match you can watch on BBC One.

Here’s what our experts had to say ahead of a rugby league festival…

Former New Zealand and Bradford Bulls player Robbie Hunter-Paul

“The men of England have the whole nation behind them”

It will be a World Cup like never before.

This is rugby league’s biggest opportunity to encourage young and old to take up the sport.

And England’s men have all the tools to support that. They had a 50-0 warm-up win over Fiji earlier this month it was definitely inspiring.

England look so smooth together, their strength out wide is incredible. Their forwards are also linking up very well.

This is rugby league’s premier competition and England have a whole nation behind them.

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Who will win?

This is not the rugby league championship of yesteryear, now there are five teams who can win it.

In hosts England, you have headliners Australia and world number one New Zealand.

But Samoa and Tonga are up there and have boasted some of the strongest teams in their history.

Any team can win this, it’s very competitive. And that’s great.

Australia beat England 6-0 in a tight and nerve-wracking 2017 Rugby League World Cup final.
Australia beat England 6-0 in a tight and nerve-wracking 2017 Rugby League World Cup final.

‘Organiser’ Radley ‘important’ for England

There are many key players for England, but I think Victor Radley is the real coup.

Australian-born Radley could have been in contention for a place in the Kangaroos squad but opted for England, qualifying through his Sheffield-born father.

There is an element of his organizational skills that taps into the right areas.

It is something that goes unnoticed. Most people only look forward to digging holes through the opposition.

But he is a very intelligent player who is able to organize those around him to set things up. Under the radar, he will play an important role.

Former England and Leeds Rhinos Danika Priim

Inspired by the legacy of the England Lions

Danika Priim
Danika Priim was part of the England team that beat New Zealand in the 2017 World Cup finals.

It’s everyone’s World Cup. If you’re a sports fan, you’ve got the next month to watch something very exciting based on the home nations.

England’s women’s rugby league team will be looking to write their own legacy, but you can’t look past the lion at the European Football Championship.

The wave for women’s sports has begun and these girls will want to ride it.

They are not professionals, so there is this ambition to take rugby league to the same level as football now. This World Cup could be a game changer.

Who will win?

You can’t take the Australians out. The NRL Women’s Premiership is contracted if you play at international level, so they are all full-time athletes. The Australian team is incredible.

England, however, in front of their supporters, are in the best possible place in the competition as far as they can.

Tara-Jane Stanley has a shot on goal
Tara-Jane Stanley is the current Super League Woman of Steel

In 2017 we held six half-day training sessions. This time the girls fit in as much training as possible.

England now look at the analysis, they have a nutritionist. They are used to playing in big stadiums, there is confidence in the camp. England’s women’s team is the best ever prepared for a World Cup.

Stanley steel woman ‘pivot’

Ali Brigginshaw is strong in the Australian team and will rule the roost in the middle of the park.

But England also has its stars. Tara-Jane Stanley is the current Woman of Steel, coming off a stellar season with the York City Knights.

He has been key at the back and this will be his third World Cup. The hope is that he will lead by example and inspire the rest of the team.

Widnes Vikings prop and BBC wheelchair rugby league commentator Kyle Amor

“Once you start watching wheelchair rugby league, you can’t stop”

England's Seb Bechara against France
England’s Seb Bechara (centre) is one of the biggest figures at the Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup.

There is always something going on, the pitch is small, the ball is almost always in play, once you start watching you can’t take your eyes off it.

Apart from a minor tweak or two, the rules of wheelchair rugby league are the same as the running game.

But it is extreme and it is very difficult to call it as a commentary sometimes. Usually around 15 tries are scored per game.

There is a huge platform for these athletes to be on the main stage at this World Cup. It’s a very powerful thing.

Who will win?

England will be the favourites. In fact, in all three World Cups, I’d argue that the hosts’ best chance will be in the wheelchair tournament.

England is up there with the best in the world. They and France, I think that will be the finalists.

England's wheelchair rugby league team
England lost 38-34 to France in the 2017 World Cup final

But there are many unknowns, especially from Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Ireland can count on one of the game’s premier coaches in Phil Roberts. He took Wigan Warriors, then known as Leyland Warriors, to the Grand Final in 2021.

Trumpet Bechara “All Real”

For me, England will rely heavily on Seb Bechara who plays for the Catalans Dragons. He lives in France as a professional trumpet player.

He is a very good wheelchair player, he has everything. The real all-in-one.

Robbie Hunter-Paul, Danika Priim and Kyle Amor were speaking to BBC Sport’s Joe Rindl.

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