The final qualifiers for the 2008 Rugby League World Cup finished up in November. Australia, New Zealand, England, France and Papua New Guinea automatically qualified. The remaining five spots have seen 14 teams compete in the qualifying rounds over the last 2 years. The end result will see arguably the best 10 rugby league nations in the World battle it out in next years World Cup.
In a tight pacific qualifying pool Tonga, Fiji and Samoa all finished on 4 points. Tonga and Fiji became the first two teams to qualify with a better for and against tally then Samoa. Samoa missed out on qualifying via the pacific pool but received a second chance via the Repechage rounds. Tonga and Fiji have received a massive boost from qualifying with interest in rugby league at an all time high in both nations.
In the European qualifiers Ireland and Scotland both secured World Cup spots by finishing top of their respective pools. In a big bonus for both nations the second round of European qualifiers were televised live on Sky and showed around the World via on line media. Scotland caused the biggest upset and forced Wales into the Repechage rounds via a team filled with Scots from the domestic competition.
The last and final spot in the World Cup saw four teams United States, Samoa, Wales and Lebanon battle it out in the Repechage rounds. A much improved United States team were the fist to be knocked out. Samoa were to strong sending the US back to the States with a much more experienced team that can help build towards the 2013 World Cup. Wales went into half time with the game in the bag. What happened after half time has got to be one of the biggest upsets in World Cup qualifying history. Lebanon stormed home in the second half ending Wales hope of playing in its 3rd consecutive World Cup. The Repechage final saw Samoa race to a big lead in the first half against Lebanon. Lebanon tried to claw their way back in the second half but it was all too late. Samoa had become the 10th and final country to secure a place in next years World Cup.
The World Cup contenders and arguably the best 10 teams in the World in 2007 are listed below:
Australia – Automatic Qualifier
England – Automatic Qualifier
New Zealand – Automatic Qualifier
France – Automatic Qualifier
Papua New Guinea – Automatic Qualifier
Tonga – Pacific Qualifier
Fiji – Pacific Qualifier
Ireland – European Qualifier
Scotland – European Qualifier
Samoa – Repechage Qualifier