Aussies not RL world champs yet: McNamara

·2-min read

Former England coach Steve McNamara believes Australia are not a foregone conclusion to retain their crown at next month's rugby league World Cup in the UK.

The Catalans Dragons coach, who was in charge of England on home soil in 2013, says Australia will start as deserved favourites but expects the hosts along with Tonga and New Zealand to be prominent.

He said France and Samoa posed dangers to the host nation with Shaun Wane's 24-man squad expected to have a few notable absentees due to injury, including prop Alex Walmsley who is out with a foot injury.

But McNamara remains upbeat ahead of a tricky opener against Samoa at Newcastle's St James' Park on October 15.

"I think they'll do really well," he said. "They're on home soil and thinking back to 2013, the crowds were full for every game.

"I remember being on the bus going to the England-Ireland game at Huddersfield and it was as big a build-up as anything, with the general atmosphere and the energy that it creates.

"And they have got a good team. Obviously they have a couple of injuries and Alex Walmsley is a tough one for the team but there are plenty of good players in England who play in that position."

McNamara is also expecting big things from France, who will comprise a host of his Catalans players and are in the same group as England and dark horses Samoa.

"I think the growth of French players has been great," he said. "The key thing is how many of their best players will be available.

"Julian Bousquet is a huge loss for them but, if they keep Theo Fages and Ben Garcia on the field, they will go well.

"They have a great spirit, they love playing for their country and I'm sure you will see a lot of passion from them.

He added it was not a done deal Australia would be crowned champions again.

"Australia will clearly be the favourites but England are on home soil, Tonga have shocked lots of teams in recent years so they will be right in there and New Zealand are a very good team as well.

"It will probably between those four teams but I remember playing Samoa in the Four Nations in Brisbane and it was a really tough ask. There is a hell of a lot of talent in their potential squad.

"But World Cups shouldn't be easy, there shouldn't be too many easy games and certainly that first one won't be."