PORT MORESBY, PAPUA NEW GUINEA - NOVEMBER 05: (L-R) Rhyse Martin, Justin Olam, Nene McDonald and Watson Boas of Papua New Guinea celebrate victory after the 2017 Rugby League World Cup match between Papua New Guinea Kumuls and Ireland on November 5, 2017 in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

The group stage set up is far from perfect

We’ve all seen the tweets about how Ireland, despite winning two games across their three fixtures are heading home. Meanwhile, Samoa, who could manage only a draw across three fixtures are preparing for a showdown with the Kangaroos in this Friday’s quarter final.

The system is far from perfect. That said, considering Samoa were drawn against New Zealand, an outrageously talented Tonga, and a hugely underrated Scotland, it’s hard to argue that Ireland would have beaten at least two of those sides.

Ideally the split would be four equal groups, with the top two of each group advancing, but the talent just isn’t there yet. Australia, New Zealand, England and Tonga would be split across four groups, with Fiji, PNG, Ireland and Samoa the next seeds, with the rest slotting in, but it would mean some almighty one-sided games early on.

That said, it needs to be fixed.

Wales are falling behind

There was once a time where the Four Nations were Australia, New Zealand, England and Wales. In fact, that was just six years ago.

Now, Wales would not qualify for the ten-nations such is their fall from grace. Beaten 34-6 by Ireland on Sunday evening, they now head home without a World Cup win, again. They also finished winless in the 2013 tournament despite home advantage. In 2013, they lost to the USA, Cook Islands and Italy, hardly competition heavyweights.

This time around they dropped games to Ireland, PNG and Fiji. PNG and Fiji have come a long way, but Wales have failed to advance like Ireland, Scotland and Italy. It’s a shame. Hopefully, they can unearth some stars before the next time around in four years time.

The Kumuls should retain home ground advantage

I can’t be the only fan who is a saddened by the fact the Kumuls won’t play their quarter final against England in front of their home fans!? Yes, there was no guarantee the PNG side would qualify for the quarters, but I’d hazard a guess that even an England vs Ireland quarter final would attract more interest in Port Moresby than it would in Melbourne. Having announced the quarter final venues already, it would not be possibly to switch it at such a late moment, but that doesn’t stop it from being a real shame. Can you imagine the PNG crowd for the visit of England? Phwoar. That home advantage really would have given the Kumuls an extra surge.

It’s been hard to get excited for Kangaroos fixtures yet

I hate typing this, but has anyone else found the games not involving the Roos a lot more fun? Obviously the Tonga vs New Zealand game was the game of the tournament, but I enjoyed the Australia vs Lebanon clash arguably the least of this past weekend’s fixtures.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of these League hipsters who hopes the Roos don’t retain the crown, but I found myself getting frustrated every time the Roos didn’t score rather than enjoying when they did. It’s 100% the product of the environment, and it’ll change big time when they play the Samoans and either Fiji or New Zealand should they win that match, but so far, it’s been underwhelming.

For the life of me I can’t see why they didn’t take the France contest to Darwin and then have Canberra host the quarter final. The Lebanon game should have been played at Belmore as well. Little things.

Taumalolo, Fifita and co have helped breathe new life into international league

Tonga were always going to name a squad that could do some big damage in this tournament, but the addition of two of the game’s most elite forwards have taken them to new heights. Taumalolo and Fifita have helped Tonga breathe new life into international league.

The win over the Kiwis on Saturday afternoon sees a fourth contender emerge, after many, many years of a three-team competition. Jennings, Tupou and Hopoate, all Origin players, have all also stared for the Tongans. This is by no means a two-man side, but the Taumalolo and Fifita inclusions gave the rest of the squad belief.

I’m confident in saying that sans the two monsters, they would not have topped New Zealand this past weekend. The win has shaken the tournament up, and has the rugby league world buzzing. It was amazing on the day, and the aftermath has been even better.

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