England duly lost their semi-final to a New Zealand side they had thrashed only last season, a profusion of errors undermining a patchy but improved performance. England have been the disappointment of the tournament. The Kiwis will go on to meet and, undoubtedly, lose to Australia in the final. And here lies the great weakness of Rugby League. Despite vibrant club competitions there is little strength in depth outside Australia and if the international game is to flourish there has to be long term investment in raising standards elsewhere in the world.
None of this should take anything away from an Australian side that should rank with the best ever, with wonderful young centres, Greg Inglis and Israel Folau, the outstanding Billy Slater at fullback and the great Darren Lockyer captaining them from stand off. They look set to continue their domination and leave the rest of us wondering if they will be beaten in our lifetimes. Without meaningful competition international Rugby League will never thrive.