Women's Rugby League World Cup Preview

The 5th annual Women's competition kicks off this week with a triple header, starting with the reigning champions beginning their title defence against The Cook Islands, followed by New Zealand vs Canada and England vs Papua New Guinea.

The Jillaroos are favourites to win the tournament again with New Zealand and England closely tied to also challenge for the cup. The Aussies name 15 World Cup debutantes in their squad in an effort to retain their crown. Amongst their new players are Australia's returning stars; Ruan Sims, Elianna Walton, Karina Brown, Steph Hancock, Ali Brigshaw, Sam Bremmer and Heather Ballinger all return from the historic 2013 World Cup victory.

It will be a strange sensation for the Kiwi Ferns not being the favourite, after all they did have a 12 year domination of the sport. That will make them all the more determined to take back what they feel is rightfully theirs, the number 1 seed spot and The World Cup. The Kiwi's name a very experienced side to try and achieve this goal, Laura Mariu returns as captain with Georgia Hale as her vice. New Zealand name only 6 debutantes.

England are regarded as a dark horse in this tournament, everyone has their eye on them as they name a strong squad that consists of 10 Bradford Bulls players fresh from their successful 2017 season. Andrea Dobson appears in her fourth World Cup alongside, Lois Forsell, Kirsty Moroney, Emma Slowe and Emily Rudge. The experience they offer is invaluable and will give much needed support to the younger players coming through the squad. The popularity of the sport has really improved in England and will help with better quality players in years to come, a couple of days ago Wigan and Leeds both confirmed they look to have a fully implemented side ready for the 2018 season to make the 4 team competition, 6 teams.

Canada are a real up and coming nation and it's great to see them getting really good backing from major sponsors, this is crucial to aid the development of some of the smaller teams. 9 of the 24 players that will travel play for British Columbia another 9 are from Ontario, this familiarity could really benefit the Canadians and they are going to need any advantage they can get as they take on the Kiwi's in the first round. Code hoppers Mandy Marchak and Andrea Burk both featured for the women's side in the 2014 Rugby Union World Cup, bringing them in will bring plenty of quality into the squad.

The Papua New Guinea Orchids are set to make their much awaited World Cup debut, a lot of people are expecting great things from them. The Orchids have only played one international game as a team and that was a 42-4 loss to Australia earlier this year, their lack of game time together could be a potential issue. Cathy Neap, who plays for Southern at club level, has been given the task of skippering this incredibly motivated and enthusiastic side. A grand total of 13 players have been named from Southern. Amelia Kuk and Jazmyn Taumafai are the only two players named in the squad that play their domestic Rugby League outside of Papua New Guinea.

Last but not least we have The Cook Islands, this is their second World Cup, their first was back in 2005. The Cook Islands could be a side to watch, they have a team packed with quality and experience, all of their players run out regular for decent teams in the Australian and New Zealand women's competitions. Unfortunately for the Cook Islands they are tipped not to make the next round, this is purely down to the fact that they are in Pool A with England and Australia, it's a major challenge and they will certainly embrace it. A few notable mentions in the squad are, sisters Te Amohaere Ngat-Aerengamate and Te Kura Ngat-Aerengamate, who both play for counties Manukau in the New Zealand league and Eliza Wilson who plays for Auckland could be ones to watch.

To break down how the system works for anyone who isn't aware. Each side plays 3 games, the top 2 sides make it into the next round. From there the winner of Pool B takes on the team that finished second in Pool and Visa Versa. The winners of those games play in the final.



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