AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 25: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck of the Kiwis looks on during their Rugby League World Cup 2017 Team Welcome at Wynard Quarter on October 25, 2017 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

David Kidwell has named his side as the New Zealand national side kicks off its World Cup campaign this Saturday against a formidable Samoan side.

The general feeling upon Kidwell's team release was one of indifference, with more talk centering around the players who were missing, rather than the side named by the 2008 World Champions.

Over the years, the Kiwis have been the only side who have troubled the all reigning Kangaroos on anything even close to a regular basis.

Their aforementioned 2008 World Cup final upset was one of the highlights of modern day Rugby League. As a proud Aussie, it's painful to remember, but it ensured the 2013 World Cup had a beautiful story line that had not been matched in international league in many years.

I'm loathe to say anything negative about this side as they have a history of being able to pull wins out of the fire, but it just lacks the polish of the Aussie side, and arguably the English side.

Some have taken to social media to suggest that the Tongan side has named a side on par, or even stronger than, their Kidwell-led counterparts.

Make no mistake, any side featuring the likes of Shaun Johnson, Jordan Rapana, Marty Taupau and Roger Tuivasa-sheck is never, ever, going to come across as anything less than a world class challenge, but this side lacks the intimidation factor of sides of years gone by.

Jesse Bromwich and Kevin Proctor are missing for disciplinary reasons, Jason Taumalolo's highly and hotly debated decision to play for Tonga, and the fact Kieran Foran is unavailable, has stripped the Kiwis side of huge stars.

With all due respect to both players, Gerard Beale and Brad Takairangi, both centres named for the tournament opener, are hardly the most imposing partnership in the tournament.

Beale was shifted to the wing for the Sharks, and played very well in his role, but he was relegated below the likes of Kurt Capewell when regular first choice centre Jack Bird was unavailable.

Although I'm a fan of Taka, he may be caught in a serious fight for his centre position next season at club level.

If Brad Arthur decides to move Bevan French back to fullback, you'd have to think Clint Gutherson and Michael Jennings are the preferred centre pairing.

As a Wigan fan (family ties) you'll be hard pressed finding someone who has enjoyed Thomas Leuluai's Super League career more than me, but he doesn't present the same challenge as the far quicker, more elusive number nines across the competition.

Kodi Nikorima is a exciting player with a monster future ahead of him, but he's been caught up in a battle for his club's halves position with Ben Hunt and later Benji Marshall, and certainly doesn't have the pedigree of the likes of Cronk or Widdop.

Judging purely on paper, I believe the England side may have been elevated to second favourites in the tournament. They are currently tied with the New Zealanders at around $8 across multiple betting agencies. Tonga are at $14/$15, although once again on paper, they just might just edge our brothers from across the Tasman.

For the record I can still see the New Zealanders lining up across from the Kangaroos at Suncorp stadium in the final, but it's no longer the foregone conclusion it once was.

In fact, given that their group (B) is perhaps the most open, it's not beyond the realms of belief that the New Zealanders may be drawn into a real battle to top their group.

With Tonga absolutely buzzing on the back of their best ever side being named, combined with the physical power contained within that amazing Samoan side, who knows?

Let us know below, do you believe Tonga, England or Samoa have overtaken the Kiwis as Australia's biggest threat to the title, or is this an over reaction?

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