The 16 teams who have qualified for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup are beginning their final preparations for the tournament which kicks off on October 23rd. Home nation England are among the favourites to challenge the dominant Australian side and the hosts have been particularly busy as the run up to the first whistle begins in earnest.
Help with coaching and mental preparation can come from many sources but it’s rare to see assistance coming from other sports. It is, therefore, interesting to see England employ the services of former footballer John Terry and one of Europe’s most successful golfers, Lee Westwood. Both have a role to play in the next few weeks with Terry particularly keen to get involved in one of his favourite sports.
While some may argue that a footballer and a golfer might not be obvious choices in terms of assisting a rugby league team, there’s no doubt that England coach Shaun Wane has picked two of the most experienced heads in their respective fields. John Terry enjoyed a 20-year playing career, during which time he picked up 78 international caps, and he is currently employed as assistant head coach at Aston Villa.
Lee Westwood, meanwhile, won his first professional golf tournament back in 1996 and he’s still picking up trophies in his mid-40s. With a history of success and personal honours behind them, perhaps this isn’t such a surprising move.
England’s Chances Analysed
With home advantage aiding their cause, England have a lot of backers ahead of the 2021 tournament but they are mere third favourites as far as the sportsbooks are concerned. According to bookmakers linked to sbo.net, Shaun Wane’s side are out at an industry best of 8/1 in the current rugby league betting markets.
Australia, who have won 11 of the World Cups held to date, are obvious favourites at 4/11 while 2008 champions New Zealand follow at 8/1. There’s a long way to go until the first ball is kicked in anger and sbo.net will continue to monitor those markets as the tournament approaches. The site will also update readers with news and opinions so it can be a useful portal ahead of the 2021 Rugby World Cup.
Both John Terry and Lee Westwood are set to talk to the England squad ahead of the 2021 Rugby League World Cup while the former footballer is set to have more of a ‘hands on’ role. Shaun Wane has said that he is keen to speak to various people in regards to how they train and what their standards are. A spoken masterclass is, therefore, expected from both men.
In the case of John Terry, Wane has revealed that Aston Villa’s assistant coach has agreed to attend England’s training sessions once they get underway. Contrary to perceived opinion, Wane claims that Terry loves the sport of rugby league and has a real understanding of the game.
Getting the Edge
Any assistance ahead of the biggest rugby league tournament on earth can only be a positive thing but England have a hard task ahead of them if they are to end Australia’s dominance. The Kangaroos record of 11 wins from 15 global tournaments includes victories in the last two editions of the world cup in 2013 and 2017. The Aussies have won eight of the previous nine competitions with New Zealand’s sole triumph in 2008 breaking a perfect run.
No English team has ever won the Rugby League World Cup although sides representing Great Britain have lifted the trophy on three previous occasions. Wane and his team will, however, reflect on that close, 6-0 scoreline in the final four years ago in what was one of the least memorable World Cup games.
A six-point deficit may be small but for England to overtake Australia in 2021 would represent a giant leap. It’s not impossible and the hope remains that noisy, partisan fans will be allowed into the stadiums to give the host nation a boost. For now, any help in the side’s preparations will be welcome and the appointment of John Terry and Lee Westwood is a positive step in the right direction.