England and New Zealand have made great strides in recent years but Australia remain THE side to beat ahead of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup. Mal Meninga’s side were simply sublime when defeating the Kiwis 34-2 in the final of the 2013 edition and a number of high-profile players still play for Australia to this day. A good blend of youth and experience is key to Australia’s dominance on the international stage and it would take a brave man to back against the Kangaroos, currently 2/5 to win the competition with Bet365, as they look to win Rugby League’s ultimate prize for an incredible 11th time. During the 2013 tournament, Australia conceded just 24 points in six games of Rugby League – an incredible achievement to say the least. That feat is even more impressive when you consider that England, arguably their closest rivals ahead of this year’s competition, scored 20 of those; the Kangaroos really were a class above from start to finish. Johnathan Thurston’s injury was a major blow but the Kangaroos are blessed with quality and if anyone can cope with the loss of an instrumental player, it is Australia. New Zealand aren’t the dominant force in League that they are in Union and the likes of Darius Boyd, Cooper Cronk and Sam Thaiday will be ready to give the Kiwis a thrashing. Australia will have to cope with the added demands of hosting the event with New Zealand but that shouldn’t be a problem. In fact, the Kangaroos fans will relish the opportunity to see their side go for the jugular against some of Rugby League’s international minnows – and plenty of tries could be scored throughout the tournament. It would take a brave man to back against Australia despite an improved effort from England and New Zealand. Home advantage could help the Kiwis to an extent but nobody can touch Australia right now and it will take a major collapse for Meninga’s men to fall short in their pursuit of glory.