Aside from Tonga vs New Zealand (which will go down as one of the greatest international games of all time), the World Cup has been beyond underwhelming the moment a Tier 1 Nation has taken the field.
The current World Cup format is not an accurate representation of the international state of the game, but rather a farce that makes Australia, NZ and England look good.
The solution to this is simple. Scrap the World Cup completely and replace it with Four Nations every 2nd year. This would be the four top nations in the world, Australia, NZ, England and <insert last team here>.
But, in conjunction with this there will be a World Challenge with the rest of countries. Now before it’s raised, no, it isn’t condescending to the Tier 2 nations. It is a realistic perspective of how far Rugby League has developed in these Nations.
Lebanon and Italy know that they aren’t at a level to challenge Australia at the moment. At the moment the only context they’d have is “Australia beat us by 50+ last time but this time it was a modest 34 points.” This isn’t realistic or entertaining.
Why is this a good idea though? Firstly it wild reduce burnout, smaller tournaments mean less games that have to be played. Second it would provide realistic perspective in context to the current state of the game.
The most exciting games of this tournament (aside from Tonga vs NZ) has been games like Scotland vs Samoa and Lebanon vs France. The fans were robbed of perhaps the most interesting matchups due to the “fair” pool splits. Imagine seeing PNG take on fellow livewires Fiji, Lebanon taking on Euro rivals Italy or Samoa and Ireland settling who deserved that finals spot.
Then there’s the final icing on the cake. The last placed team of the Four Nations (could be settled by 3rd vs 4th or points differential) take on the winner of the World Challenge with the Four Nations spot on the line for the next tournament