John Kear out to end Wales’ World Cup win drought

John Kear.
John Kear.
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ONE WIN is the first World Cup objective for Wakefield Trinity head of rugby John Kear.

Kear – Wakefield Trinity’s director of rugby – is coach of Wales who are putting the final touches to their preparations at a training camp in Brisbane.

They begin their campaign against Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby on Saturday, October 28, before facing Fiji in Townsville on November 5.

Their final group game is against Ireland in Perth a week later. And Kear pointed out: “Wales haven’t won a World Cup game since 2000.

“They didn’t qualify for 2008 and had a bit of an indifferent tournament in 2013.

“We are obviously hoping to rectify that and if you do that you might get out of your group.

“I think you need two wins out of three. We’ve got a tough inter-group game against Fiji, when you look at their squad and obviously PNG in PNG is going to be difficult.

“Ireland have got a strong squad as well so it is going to be difficult, but if you get the one win you never know what can happen.

“Should we get out of the group stages I think that would be the equivalent of Wales football getting to the semi-finals of the European Championship.”

Wales’ 24-man group includes only four players from Super League clubs, but Kear insisted: “It’s a good squad. Obviously we are missing Ben Flower, Rhys Evans, Lloyd White, Gil Dudson and [former Leeds Rhinos academy player] Ollie Olds through injury, but the only one who has played consistently for us out of those five is Ollie.

“He has played seven or eight out of the 10 since I’ve been in charge and he’s our half-back, but of the others Gil and Lloyd have only played three and Ben and Rhys haven’t played.

“They are very good players, but what you’ve never had you don’t miss. We will miss Ollie because he’s been one of the mainstays of the team.

“Finding a replacement half-back has been one of the worries we have had. That’s why there’s two ‘chances’ in the squad from Down Under in Matty Seamark, who was involved in 2013 and a young man Josh Ralph.

“We will see if they can fill the boots of Ollie Olds.”

Kear reckons it is important Wales make the most of the next few weeks.

He said: “We’ll nip into Papua New Guinea, play the game, come out and then it’s down to Townsville, on to Perth and if we get out of the group hopefully on to Melbourne to play England.

“It is a lot of travelling, but it’s all experience – I think there’s young men there who will absolutely have a ball. I am looking forward to Papua New Guinea and seeing a country where rugby league truly is the god, held in high esteem and they worship the people who play it.

“Also, I’ve never been to Townsville, though I have been to Perth before. I just think the more experience you get with travel and different places and different cultures, the better it is.

“I am going to encourage the players to make the most of it and enjoy it, but obviously when it comes to playing, to get their rugby league hats on and give their best.”

As for the tournament as a whole, Kear – coach of England in 2000 – expects Australia to retain the title.

“I think New Zealand are in transition,” he said.

“I will be really disappointed from a rugby league perspective if England don’t get to the final.

“To me, looking at the rosters, England have the second-best team.

“But the thing that worries me is Cooper Cronk, Billy Slater and Cameron Smith – it is going to be their last World Cup and when it’s the last of anything with players of that quality they tend to go out in an all-singing, all-dancing manner.

“If they do that you can’t see past an Australian win.”

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