x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Down Under way up in rugby league

Can the impossible happen and New Zealand win tomorrow's World Cup final against Australia? There is a simple answer: No.

Can the impossible happen and New Zealand win tomorrow's World Cup final against Australia? There is a simple answer: No. New Zealand will have to play twice as well as they did in beating England in the semi-final to even get near Australia. Their only chance is if every one of their players puts in the best performance they have ever managed in their life. It needs to be faultless. The only way a side can compete against Australia is if they play with speed, and never sacrifice the ball. If you give up 60 per cent of the possession to Australia, you are going to be destroyed.

Australia's error count is minimal. You have to earn the right to get out of your half against them. They do not have the biggest forwards, but they are strong and mobile and they always break their heads through the gain-line. They build fine platforms for Darren Lockyer and Johnathan (CQ) Thurston to work from. With the job their forwards do, any half-back could look good - but those two are among the best that have played the game.

All over the park, Australia are superior in every facet to all the other teams who have played in the World Cup. When a side has that much pace, from one to 13, they are very hard to compete against. They have world class players at hooker, scrum-half and full-back - and if all those players are on form at the same time, they are unstoppable. Billy Slater, the Kangaroos full-back, has been sublime. He has been around for a long time, and has always been one of the best full-backs in the world. But this year he has taken it to a different level.

His decision-making has got far better, and his pure speed and ability to beat a player and make something out of nothing is phenomenal. He is now the face of rugby league in Australia. As a student of the game I appreciate what Australia do, but I am not sure their dominance is a particularly good thing for the sport as a whole. It is a big problem. It is all very well saying it is up to the rest of us to close the gap, but we cannot really do that without the governing body of rugby league taking the lead.

Samoa's game with Tonga was one of the best of the tournament - but between now and the next World Cup, neither side will play any Test matches. The minnow teams need more games. There is no international schedule in rugby league - so how are we going to become a global game if the only time we get matches is at World Cups? The United States have got a good rugby league team. Lebanon have got a great team - they would have been awesome if they had played at the World Cup because of all the players of Lebanese origin they have in Australia. They would have been very hard to beat. Why was there one pool of four and then two of three? It was ridiculous. It would surely have been logical to have three lots of four, then invite Lebanon, Wales or the US to play as well. Then the tournament would have been truly global.

Apollo Perelini was part of Samoa's coaching staff at the Rugby League World Cup. He is now the head of the Elite Sporting Academy, based at Repton School in Nad al Sheba, Dubai, which officially opened for business yesterday.