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A lot of people (including rugby league fans) won't know this - but the 2008 Rugby League World Cup is scheduled to take place in Australia in 2008. After the somewhat abysmal failure of the sixteen team 2000 World Cup in England, the tournament is scheduled to return as a commemoration of the centenary of the game in Australia. So far five teams have been given qualification due to their world ranking. These are Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, England, and France. The remaining five spots will be decided by a series of qualifiers, with the aim to produce a competitive World Cup to further re-establish the game on an international level following a fairly disastrous twenty years or so. Many people aren't aware that the rugby league world cup dates back to 1954, making it an old tournament as far as international sport goes. Qualifying this far has begun in Europe, with the following outcomes in round one. Russia 40 defeated The Netherlands 14 Georgia 45 defeated Serbia 10 Georgia 57 defeated The Netherlands 16 Russia 44 defeated Serbia 6 The Netherlands 38 defeated Serbia 26 Georgia vs. Russia was cancelled Russia took part in the 2000 World Cup (in which they were spanked by all comers, including a 110-4 loss to Australia), whilst Georgia managed to draw a crowd of ten thousand and nationwide television coverage for their clash against the Netherlands. Both Russia and Georgia will advance to the second round of European qualification, which looks like this. GROUP A Scotland Georgia Wales GROUP B Ireland Lebanon Russia The two first nations will progress to the World Cup. In Group A it's a toss up between Scotland and Wales, whilst group two will be evenly contested by the Irish and the always unpredictable Lebanese side. They'll be a threat as long as Hazem El Masri remains in action. The two runners up will enter a repecharge round. Pacific Qualification will include Cook Islands, Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga. The top two will progress to the World Cup and the third placed side will enter the repecharge with the two European runners up and the Atlantic winner. Atlantic qualifiers will feature Japan, South Africa, the United States, and the West Indies. This is a fairly open group - really. South Africa put in an abysmal performance in 2000, whilst the United States came close to beating Australia (albeit an underdone and lazy Aussie side) in 2004. The West Indies are newcomers to international rugby league, and the US have had little trouble with Japan in the past. Ultimately I think the make up of the tournament will be something like. Australia New Zealand England Papua New Guinea France Wales Ireland Tonga Samoa Lebanon
It's not long! The excitement is palpable. Let's begin by asking ourselves two questions: 1. What is more boring? Rugby or Take That? 2. Why do they need a send-off? Is the journey from East London to West London really that perilous?