Australia romped to victory in the 2013 World Cup.
Australia romped to victory in the 2013 World Cup.

Why the Kangaroos are the Death Star

IN the grand scheme of things, whenever Australia lose it's good for international rugby league.

The Kangaroos are the colossus of Test football. In the last 10 years they've lost to New Zealand five times, drew with them once and beaten everybody else they've played, accumulating a 39-5-1 record against all opposition.

Since Great Britain beat Australia 23-12 in the 2006 Tri Nations, the closest the Poms have come to beating the Kangaroos was a 16-12 defeat in the 2014 Four Nations. In the 21st century, Great Britain/England have three wins against Australia from 24 attempts.

France are the only other team to have ever beaten Australia and the last time they did that was in 1978. The French lost 52-30 to Australia in 2004 and that match is the closest any tier two nation has come to beating Australia in the last 20 years.

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The Kangaroos deserve a lot of credit for their continued supremacy, especially over the last 18 months after it looked like New Zealand had well and truly overtaken them in 2014-15.

But Australia, as good as they may be, are the schoolyard bullies. They're the big men on campus, the unstoppable force, the Death Star, the favourites in every game they play and every game they have played in the last 20 years.

They're the prohibitive favourites for this World Cup and it would take something truly shocking for anyone else to get the prize. But if someone else did, if New Zealand or England or Tonga could somehow claw their way past the green and gold juggernaut, it would give international rugby league a serious shot in the arm.

It's no coincidence that New Zealand's 24-0 thumping in the 2005 Tri Nations final was followed by victories in the 2008 World Cup, the 2010 Four Nations and the 2014 Four Nations. No one Kiwi player appeared in all four matches, it was a true generational shift.

Australia romped to victory in the 2013 World Cup.
Australia romped to victory in the 2013 World Cup.

Another New Zealand win would be a boost, but an England World Cup win could be one of the greatest moments in that country's rugby league history.

Rugby league in England is in a tough spot. It has the history and the tradition and the fanatical support in the north but the clubs are perennially short of cash and the struggle to move beyond the game's birthplace has been tough.

The Test side hasn't won a tournament since 1972 and even then it was on a count back. They haven't made a World Cup final since 1995. It has been a tough few decades for the Lions, first as Great Britain and then as England.

A win would give the game in the UK some much needed wider exposure and provide success-starved England sports fans some desperately needed glory. It would be the kind of win the fans would remember for the rest of their lives.

New Zealand footy people will talk about the 2008 World Cup final for as long as the game is played. The haka before the match, Billy Slater's gaffe that lead to Benji Marshall's try, the decisive penalty try to Lance Hohaia, the match-sealing score to Adam Blair, the scenes afterwards - they're iconic images of New Zealand rugby league.

Australia are again the warm favourites.
Australia are again the warm favourites.

And if Tonga somehow, someway, manage to win it all? Forget about it.

It would be the greatest day in international rugby league history. Jason Taumalolo would become an all-time footballing legend. They would rename islands after him.

If Australia win, and they probably will, its just one more tournament victory.

Another win among many. Special and unique in its own way without a doubt, but without the singular significance of an England or New Zealand victory.

That's not to denigrate the achievements of the Kangaroos by any means.

The team that romped to victory in the 2013 tournament was among the finest ever to leave these shores. This time around there's a truly fascinating mix of the old guard and the new generation - Mal Meninga's squad has a fun mix of grizzled veterans and hungry youngsters.

The likes of Cameron Munster, Michael Morgan and Tom Trbojevic making their mark on the Test arena is a recipe for a good time and the return of Billy Slater promises to be a treat.

Most of the Kangaroos recent losses have come without Johnathan Thurston.
Most of the Kangaroos recent losses have come without Johnathan Thurston.

This will also be the final time we see Slater, Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk all play together, a gift many fans won't appreciate until its over.

Australia will play some brilliant football on their way to a probable victory, and no matter the result they'll be appointment viewing because they are the best in the world.

But things are better for Test footy when they lose. Mal Meninga is one of Test football's champions, a true believer in the importance of the international game.

Ironically, the best thing he could do for Test footy would be to fail.