Big three won’t be beaten, says Kear


A TIER-two country will not defeat a member of the big three – Australia, New Zealand and England – at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup, according to veteran Wales coach John Kear.
However, plenty of evidence to the contrary may have already been provided by Tonga, Fiji and Papua New Guinea.
With one group match left, Tonga, Fiji and PNG appear to have emerged as the Pacific powers ready to step up and challenge rugby league’s tier one trio ahead of the finals. All three are undefeated after two games to all but secure a quarterfinal berth.
But it’s the way they have secured the wins that has made rivals sit up and take notice.
Armed with high-profile defectors Jason Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita, Tonga are tournament dark horses after brushing aside world No.4 Scotland and heavyweights Samoa.
Jarryd Hayne’s Fiji have racked up an incredible 130 points in their two convincing victories, albeit against minnows Wales and the USA.
And an undefeated Papua New Guinea backed up their 50-6 romp over Wales with a gritty 14-6 win over an underrated Ireland at Port Moresby on Sunday.
Since the World Cup included developing nations in 1995, not one member of the big three has been defeated.
Yet despite witnessing first-hand the likes of Fiji and PNG in full flight, Kear, a two-time Challenge Cup-winning UK coach, reckoned that trend won’t change in 2017.
“No. That’s just the way it is,” he said.
“The tier one countries are exceptional.
“Tonga might be the only one, against New Zealand.
“But New Zealand are outstanding as well, so I don’t think so.
“It will be Australia versus New Zealand or England in the final – I’m pretty certain of that.”