Former England full-back Jason Robinson believes this year’s Rugby League World Cup can inspire a new generation of players.
The 2021 edition of the World Cup kicks off in Newcastle on Saturday, having been delayed by a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic and England’s men will open the competition against Samoa at St James’ Park.
Running alongside the men’s tournament will be the women’s and wheelchair competitions, the first time all formats will play side by side.
The men’s and women’s tournaments will culminate in a double-header of finals at Old Trafford and Robinson believes the competition could give the sport a boost in England.
He told the PA news agency: “We all get inspired by different things, sometimes it’s by seeing other people going forward and doing it, that inspires us to pick up a rugby ball and think, ‘maybe it’s something I can try’.
“It’s going to be very inspirational, the boost that the game needs.
“We talk about expanding the game and the growth of the game, for me international rugby is certainly one of those tournaments that can do that, because of the visibility, because of the standard.
“When you look at World Cups it tends to be either a men’s tournament, or a women’s tournament, but this is a tournament that everybody can follow.”
Australia are the reigning men’s champions, having beaten England on home soil in 2017, and the hosts face a tricky start to the tournament against a strong Samoan side.
Ellery Hanley reached the 1992 World Cup final with Great Britain, who lost to the Kangaroos at Wembley, and he expects England to reach the showpiece match again this year.
“I expect England to be in the final and I expect the final to be tough,” he told PA.
“I know Shaun Wane well enough to recognise he’ll only be thinking one game at a time, I’m the same as well.
“The truth of the matter is, everybody knows and expects England to be in the final, there’s no question about it, that’s the least we expect of them.
“Winning it might be a different thing, but they have an equal chance as far as I’m concerned, they have enough talent and depth as well.”
Robinson is also well aware of the expectations around the team, having competed for England in two World Cup finals before switching codes to win the 2003 World Cup with England in rugby union, and he insists now is the time for England to deliver.
“There’s going to be nerves, there’s going to be a lot of excitement, friends, family in the crowd,” Robinson added.
“(It) brings back memories of standing there, with your England kit on, singing the national anthem with a massive crowd just playing against a top team, knowing that you’ve been chosen above everyone else in this country to represent and it’s exciting, that’s what you play the game for.
“When I was a child growing up, playing amateur rugby, my dream was to play at the highest level, so for these players this is their time to deliver, and it’s up to them to see how far they go.
“There’s a lot of excitement, they’ll just want to get out there, get into the games and hopefully go all the way.”
:: National Lottery players are providing over £9.3m of vital support to Rugby League between 2022-2027 to aid the development of Rugby League across the country. This includes £750,000 to support communities across England through the RLWC21 CreatedBy Grants Programme as well as providing vital funding for the Women’s & Girls’ game during the pandemic.