Written by Joshua Dean
Even though they’re the number one ranked side, the New Zealand Kiwis are still underdogs to win the Rugby League World Cup in England late next year.
Depending on how other games pan out, the Kiwis will potentially need to overcome a quality Australian side, a much improved Tongan outfit and of course the English team on their home soil in order to lift the Paul Barrière Trophy.
New Zealand is a very good side, however will need to improve in a few areas to be successful at the sixteenth staging of the tournament in 2021.
Forward pack needs to step up
With players such as Nelson Asofa-Solamona, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Jesse Bromwich, the Kiwis have a strong forward pack. To win the World Cup they’ll have to dominate through the middle. If the forwards do their job, the explosive backs can start throwing the ball around more often, leading to more try-scoring opportunities.
The spine has to click
For several years the Kiwis had what seemed to be the best spine in the world. For some reason, tho, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Kieran Foran, Shaun Johnson and Isaac Luke never seemed to really click whether for the national side or when together at the Warriors. They certainly don’t lack the talent tho and also now have young guns Brandon Smith and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad in their ranks. It’s more the execution that has always been a struggle for their spine. For them to have any chance, they must work on the little one-percenters that swing games and Johnson has to execute with more precision.
Adopt a high-tempo, fast-paced style
The only way I see the Kiwis beating sides such as the Kangaroos isn’t by trying to grind it out with them, but rather playing a fast-paced style that leads to more try-scoring opportunities. For years we have seen Kiwi teams that try to hold off the Aussies and not play their natural games. It’s time for Michael Maguire to try something different and allow the attacking personnel he has in his squad to play a more free-flowing style.
If the Kiwis do these things, they can win the Rugby League World Cup. However, these things are always easier said then done.