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Andrew Voss says Sydney Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce could be collateral damage in the business of football. columnist Andrew Voss on the opening week of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup, England as genuine contenders, and whether Mitchell Pearce can fit into the 2018 Roosters team.

Did you detect any cracks in the Australian side?

Last Friday was hardly the Kangaroos' best night, however they still got the job done.

Coach Mal Meninga will know his side left a lot of football out on AAMI Park, but credit also to a gallant England opposition defence. I stand by my pre-tournament forecast. I don't believe this Australian side is as good as 2013 and that could make them vulnerable.

I saw enough in the positive approach of New Zealand, who attacked their game with Samoa, to declare they will be in good shape in two or three weeks.

Let's hope injuries don't have too great of an impact on the Cup and that a tournament that provided plenty of highlights in its opening seven games will only get better.

Who was best of the rest?

It always hard to gauge form at a World Cup however Tonga look like they will make up for a disappointing tournament four years ago.

Having said that, I'm not totally dismissing the chances of Samoa this weekend in what should be an epic showdown.

Fiji looked good and set a decent base to work from. Meantime if we knew that PNG were scheduled to play all their matches in Port Moresby, I would probably be tipping them as certain semi-finalists!

That was my highlight from week one at the Cup. What a sight. What a crowd. And I'm so glad the Kumuls lived up to expectations on the field for such a big occasion.

So who is Alex Walmsley?

He is actually the first prop I would have picked for England for the Cup opener against Australia.

As it is, the St Helens giant will get his chance this weekend against Lebanon. If you don't watch the Super League, you won't know much about this bloke, but let me tell you he has been tagged a front row 'star' for quite some time.

That it has taken until he was 27 to break into the England test side is a big surprise. I can't wait to see him in Sydney. Now that he is in the squad, I think Wayne Bennett might find it hard to leave him out.

Can England really give this World Cup a shake?

Coach Bennett has shown his hand by only making the one injury forced change to his team for this weekend.

He obviously believes this squad of players is England's best shot, especially in relation to their 'spine' and wants to give them as much time as possible playing together to get it right.

On that note I am again demanding more from Gareth Widdop, Luke Gale and Jonny Lomax to get their attack moving. They don't appear to have any such problems at hooker with Josh Hodgson and James Roby on deck.

To challenge Australia and New Zealand, England needs to be able to post points. The jury is most definitely out on how potent their attacking arsenal can be after game one.

Has the World Cup highlighted the problems for international rugby league?

It always does.

What a farce that last Saturday night's match in Auckland was the first time New Zealand had hosted a test in three years. Could you imagine if that happened to the All Blacks?

Frank Pritchard is right this week in calling for a bigger and more regular stage for the Pacific Island Test matches. I have previously put forward the concept of a tri-series between New Zealand, Samoa and Tonga while State of Origin is on in Australia. I think it would be huge.

And when I watch Fiji play such exciting football as they did last Saturday night, I ask myself what has been done over the last decade to increase their international league profile. In that time they have twice made the semi-finals of the World Cup. What a missed opportunity that we have had to wait every four years to see them at full strength.

What next for Mitchell Pearce?

Obviously it is not all World Cup news this week. And I believe Mitchell Pearce has every right to be disappointed with how things have unfolded at the Roosters.

With Cooper Cronk on board, none of Pearce, Luke Keary or Jake Friend should be forced to play much less than 80 minutes each week in the NRL in 2018. On that basis, one has to go, despite all being contracted to the Roosters next season.

For Mitchell, he has done it all at the club including player of the year awards and a premiership. He came to them as a teenager. If I'm him, I'm exploring my options elsewhere.

That's the business of football. No one ever said it had to be fair.

Enjoy another weekend of international football folks.

Giddy Up!

Twitter: @AndrewVossy

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