No easy games in Kumul Rugby League World Cup Campaign

NEXT month’s Rugby League World Cup is shaping up to be the toughest yet.
The Papua New Guinea Kumuls ranking of six (a drop of two places from a previous high of four) by the Internal Rugby League Federation will mean little in a vastly different landscape that is the 2013 tournament. 
In past World Cups, the gap between the top tier and the next group of nations was as clear as night and day, but with the rapid growth and commercialisation of the sport in its traditional heartlands  (Australia, England and New Zealand), the likelihood of mismatches has been replaced by the prospects of upsets.
Although Australia, defending champions New Zealand and hosts England are clear favourites – in that order – they are by no means the only quality sides in the 14-team tournament.
In particular, the Pacific nations and even newcomers Italy will boast an array of National Rugby League and Super League talent that should see a more level playing field in this edition of rugby league’s global event.
The Kumuls can muster only six top flight NRL/Super League players: Paul Aiton, James Segeyaro, Neville Costigan, Ray Thompson, Jason Chan and David Mead. Other teams down the IRLF pecking order have more. 
Samoa, Tonga, Fiji and Italy have named their squads and it is clear all have the personnel to make the semi-finals.
Terry Campese (Canberra), Craig Gower (Newcastle), brothers Anthony (Sydney City) and brother Mark Minichiello (Gold Coast) have all been selected for Italy along with several other NRL first graders making the team from southern Europe no easy beats.
Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and to a lesser extent the Cook Islands will have sides littered with top NRL talent. 
The British Isles (Scotland, Ireland and Wales) are expected to name competitve sides as well while France has all its players with Super League experience.
Although the format favours the big three, with neither of them likely to face each other if results go as expected, the margin for error is significantly smaller then in previous world cups.

The National
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