10 must-see experiences at the World Cup
NRL.com takes a look at 10 highlights to look forward to at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.
Australia v England: Melbourne Rectangular Stadium – 27 October
Two old enemies go at it again and this time Wayne Bennett is leading the English against Australia – it doesn't get much bigger.
There are two reasons why the opening match could be crucial to the whole outcome of the tournament.
The winner of Pool A stays in Australia the whole way through to the World Cup Final at Brisbane Stadium and most likely avoids the No.1 ranked New Zealand until the conclusion of the tournament.
Add the sub plots around former Kangaroos staff and Wayne Bennett coaching England, and the numerous NRL players like James Graham and Sam Burgess ready to atone for a dramatic exit four years ago and you have the recipe for a blockbuster opening to the Rugby League World Cup.
New Zealand v Samoa, Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland – 28 October
Veteran commentator Andrew Voss believes the clash between New Zealand and Samoa at the 2013 World Cup is one of the greatest things he has ever seen. That is good enough for us.
"I've got the New Zealand v Samoa game as one of the best games I've ever called, I'm talking in my lifetime. It was incredible, it had everything," Voss told NRL.com.
Let's hope the rematch is every bit as good.
Samoa v Tonga, Barlow Park, Cairns – 29 October
There is no shortage of passion when these two sides meet and it is shapes as one of the great spectacles of the Rugby League World Cup. If their recent mid-season Tests are anything to go by, the stands will be shaking at Barlow Park when these two island nations collide in Group B.
Fiji pre-match hymn
The Fijian team singing 'I Jiova' before a match is one of the best things you can see on a rugby league field. Beautiful, powerful and incredibly moving, it is compulsive viewing. It is something that should be experienced live.
Of course the highlights don't stop there, Fiji has a team full of excitement machines and have made the last two World Cup semi-finals as well.
Fiji feature in Pool D against USA and a European qualifier.
Anything involving PNG
There is nothing like watching the passion and exuberance of the PNG Kumuls. They play with an unbridled joy and they'll have plenty of support playing their pool matches at home. The disappointment of failed campaigns in recent times and a fever-pitch home crowd might just drive them to have a breakout tournament. It will be fun to watch.
PNG are in Pool C and will face two European qualifiers in Port Moresby in the pool stage.
Pre-match war cries
The Kiwi Haka, Samoan 'Siva Tau' and Tonga 'Sipi Tau' are spine-tingling pre-match war cries that need to be experienced.
Having seen the impact of the war dances across the world, it is little wonder Australia is looking to introduce an Indigenous war dance ahead of the 2017 World Cup.
England v New Zealand?
Could we be blessed with a rematch of one of the greatest rugby league matches ever played? These two nations put on an absolute classic for the ages in the 2013 World Cup semi-final on the hallowed turf of Wembley. England looked set to book a place in their home World Cup Final until Shaun Johnson started dancing with a minute left on the clock to break English hearts.
If these two again meet in the semi-finals or the World Cup Final – you can't afford to miss it.
This tournament shapes as a swansong for some of the greatest Test players we have ever seen. Johnathan Thurston and Cameron Smith could be future immortals and the World Cup could possibly their final curtain call in the representative arena. They'll certainly be looking to cap memorable careers with another World Cup victory.
Some of the best World Cup moments of years past have not involved the 'heavyweight' nations and you can be sure there will be a few surprises from the underdogs in 2017. Last tournament it was Scotland and USA making it to the quarter-finals. The USA captured the imagination of the sporting public prompting the Wiggles to release a song about them that went viral on social media.
Who will be the feel-good story of this World Cup?
With 28 games spread across Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea in late spring/early summer, there is never a better time to plan a holiday and visit new places while watching some World Cup rugby league as well. Games are being played from as far as Perth and Cairns to Darwin and Townsville in Australia, while you can also catch games in Wellington, Christchurch and Port Moresby.
There might not be a better time to strike some destinations off your bucket list while enjoying the greatest game of all.