After four long years, the big red button has been pressed once again as the world of rugby league is at war.
Yes, 14 nations are set to converge in Australasia for the sports’ biggest showpiece, the World Cup, where only one can become the official world champions of rugby league.
But who will it be? One of the big three in Australia, New Zealand or England or will one of the ‘minnows’ write themselves in history and achieve such an honour?
The journey begins here, find out how each country will fare in the opening week of what should be exhilarating action!
Australia Vs England
Kicking off the tournament is a meeting between two very old enemies as current holders Australia entertain our very own England!
Looking at both squads, the Australians are featuring a lot of new faces from the last tournament but let’s face it, with a nation with so much history and class, transition won’t be an issue.
Of course, the Kangaroos have retained their recognised superstars in Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith, who captains the Aussies.
To counteract such a measure, England do have the experienced Sean O’Loughlin to lead as well as Gareth Widdop of current Super League Man of Steel Luke Gale.
However, let’s face it, the Australians are superior as their three have superior speed, better kicking games and sheer experience on the big stage considering their time in the NRL.
The hosts are also superior in the three-quarter line; speedster Valentine Holmes is named along with juggernaut Dane Gagai for his debut plus centres Josh Dugan and Will Chambers return to the fold.
For England, Jermaine McGillvary and Ryan Hall can provide an interesting battle in terms of size but speed? That’s a major concern, as is John Bateman playing out of position at centre.
Maybe Mark Percival or Michael Shenton would have been a better choice considering their speed as the Australians look just too quick here.
Don’t even get started with Billy Slater against Jonny Lomax, one former golden boot winner against a man with plenty of talent but playing put of such a position all season, yet again a concern!
The forward pack looks relatively more even but even then, the Kangaroos possess a healthy range of experience and youth.
Smith to lead players around such as Aaron Woods, David Klemmer and Josh McGuire, meaning England will have their work cut out.
The Red and Whites possess NRL experience in James Graham, Sam Burgess and Elliott Whitehead, all to be led around by Josh Hodgson.
But considering their depth are Chris Hill, who endured a season of struggle and Chris Heighington is an aging player, England will still be up against it in all departments.
So yes, the Australians will be due to start the tournament off with a win, just like 2013 against the English, and probably in much easier fashion.
They’ll take control as they have faster players as well as experiencing a tougher league and thus will be more powerful.