Written by John Davidson
English rugby league great Gary Schofield has poured water on England’s hopes of winning this year’s World Cup, and believes Tonga will provide a huge danger to the hosts even reaching the final.
England or Great Britain has not won the tournament since 1972 but reached the last final in Brisbane in 2017.
England were beaten by the Combined Nations All Stars last year and then defeated France in France in a below-par performance.
The former Great Britain captain feels the Kangaroos are the favourites to lift the Paul Barriere trophy again this November, and predicts the Mate Ma’a will provide stern opposition to the hosts if they meet as expected in the final four.
Asked on the Forty20 LIVE podcast if England are going to win the World Cup, Schofield replied: “No, no… listen, I’d love it if England won the World Cup. England played against the Combined journeyman side and got beat.
“Then we played against a French side who didn’t turn up, so listen, [it will be] the Aussies and the New Zealanders. But Tonga has to be the team.
“If we play Tonga in the semi-final and Woolfy gets the reaction that he gets, ie – he brought Konrad Hurrell to St Helens and we know what he gets out of his players where they want to wear that shirt and play for the badge.”
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England have been drawn in Group A along with Samoa, France and Greece, while Tonga are in Group D with Wales, Papua New Guinea and the Cook Islands.
If both top their groups and win their quarter-finals, they will then face off in a repeat of the 2017 semi-final on November 12 at the Emirates Stadium in London.
Tonga historically defeated both Australia and Great Britain in New Zealand at the end of 2019, in their last games before the Covid-19 pandemic struck.
“Obviously I want England to win, I want England to get to the final but I tell you what it’s going to be tough,” Schofield admitted.
“Boy oh boy it’s going to be tough.
“And it looks like we’re going to be playing Tonga in the semi-finals. But don’t be writing off Fiji, don’t be writing off Samoa.
“But it’s Australia’s from day one and the player of the tournament will be Nathan Cleary…. Cleary’s head and shoulders above anyone else in the world at the moment.”