The League of Giants installation is seen in front of the Sydney Harbour Bridge on October 12, 2017. The installation of 14 giant rugby league players represents the 2017 Rugby League World Cup participating nations and will be exhibited in four host cities from October 16 to December 2. / AFP PHOTO / Saeed KHAN (Photo credit should read SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)

We are now less than three weeks away from the World Cup kicking off, and I don't think it's overly unfair to say that this may be the most anticipated World Cup, perhaps ever.

Although the Kangaroos are extremely short-priced favourites to retain their title on home soil, the quality of squads outside of the traditional big three nations is breathtaking.

The likes of current RLPA player of the year James Tedesco, 2016 Dally M medalist Jason Taumalolo, 2016 Grand Final hero Andrew Fifita and two-time Dally M medalist Jarryd Hayne will all line up for sides outside the traditional powerhouses Australia, New Zealand, and England.

The forward packs named by Samoa, Tonga, and Fiji are frightening, and some of the strike power out wide across the competition is downright mouthwatering.

Vunivalu, Hayne, Tedesco, Moga, Leilua, Johnston, Nofoaluma. That's without even going into the largely unknown (to NRL-only fans) talent across Europe that has been named.

There has never been, in my lifetime, a competition named with such a crazy amount of talent so evenly spread.

I fully expect the big three sides to ultimately lead the way, however, Tonga looks ready to batter any side on any given day, while Fiji, if they can draw sides into an attacking shootout, have the strike power to score points from anywhere.

Unfortunately, to be a downer of sorts, there is one aspect of the game where Australia, New Zealand and England still look an absolute world ahead, and unfortunately again, it's in the game's most crucial position: the halves.

With all due respect to players named in the six and seven across the competition, the gap between the likes of Cronk, Morgan, Johnson, and their counterparts elsewhere, are huge.

Whereas the likes of Tedesco and Vunivalu could easily be wearing Green and Gold, there isn't a player outside of perhaps Johnson who would come within a top ten list for a halves spot for the Kangaroos.

That says more about the talent at the disposal of the Roos more than any great lack of talent elsewhere, but (again, Johnson aside) I could name ten Aussie halves before any other player from any other nation gets a look in.

Thurston, the game's best half, is out injured, meaning Cooper Cronk will need a new halves partner. The red-hot Michael Morgan seems the most likely, although multiple time Grand Final winning pivot James Maloney will offer plenty of competition. Queensland number six Cameron Munster is the other man in the running.

So we have Maloney, Morgan, Munster, Cronk, along with the unavailable Thurston. Throw in Johnson. As much grief as I give him, and he deserves it, Mitchell Pearce would make any national side outside the Kangaroos. Nathan Cleary would edge Luke Gale and Kodi Nikorima to a spot in the halves of England and New Zealand. Ash Taylor also. Daly Cherry-Evans would walk into any other side in the world. Ben Hunt has a strong case also.

That is without thinking overly hard either. Ah for the fun of it, Adam Reynolds, Clint Gutherson, Corey Norman.

With that many Australian-only eligible players taking up so many halves spots within the NRL, it's tough to expect any opportunities for world-class halves to develop outside of the top-tier nations.

Johnson, Widdop and Gale are excellent halves, and Nikorima is certainly no mug either (Fora, when fit, is a superstar) but the drop off outside those three nations is severe.

For every Mitch Moses or Jarryd Hayne, there are NSW cup or Super League utilities filling play-making positions elsewhere.

I'm not having a go by any stretch, but it is an unmissable gap in quality, and only when the most important positions on the field are filled with regular NRL players, will the second-tier nations have any real hope of challenging the big three.

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