Super League stars with a point to prove
The Super League's best are coming.
That is the message from Welsh captain Craig Kopczak as his side prepares for their World Cup opener against PNG on Saturday.
In somewhat of a warning to the rest of the competition, Kopczak, who plays for the Salford Red Devils in North West England, said players from the Super League felt like they had a point to prove against their NRL counterparts, with the World Cup providing the perfect stage to do just that.
And while Wales are not predicted to challenge the likes of Australia and New Zealand in the latter stages of the tournament, one nation that will be there is England.
Kopczak believes this year's English team is ready to do something special and he fully expects their Super League players to be the ones behind it.
"England have a superb squad. I've played against all of them so I know the skills and qualities they bring," Kopczak said.
"I think you'll be shocked at what they actually can do on the field. You'll be quite surprised at how well they handle the big stage."
It is a view shared by Welsh coach John Kear who has earmarked English captain Sean O'Loughlin as one to watch throughout the competition.
Kear, who has coached against O'Loughlin's Wigan Warriors on a number of occasions, told media this week that the 401-game Wigan veteran has always been up to NRL standard.
"Obviously we're involved with the Super League and we know how good some of these English players are," Kear said.
"Sean O'Loughlin is up there. He's an NRL standard, don't you worry about that. I think he'll surprise one or two as well."
O'Loughlin is England's inspirational captain and the man most likely to inspire the English to their first World Cup victory.
However, the humble 34-year-old has instead nominated his countryman Luke Gale as the player to watch.
Gale enters the tournament in fine form after putting together a superb Super League season that saw him take home the Man of Steel award for the competition's best player.
An exciting half, Gale almost capped off the year with a Super League title but his side could not overcome the Leeds Rhinos in a one-sided grand final – losing 24-6.
According to O'Loughlin, it is this grand final heartbreak that could produce the best out of Gale as he tries to forget the pain of defeat by guiding England deep into the tournament.
"Luke Gale has come off the back of a great season with Castleford back home. He won the Man of Steel in the Super League," O'Loughlin said.
"When he gets the ball he's pretty dynamic and I'm sure he will be ready to show the world how good he is after a great season back home."