Jamie Peacock believes England’s fervent home support could be the difference between success and failure at the Rugby League World Cup.
Peacock represented his country at two World Cups in 2000 and 2008, helping them reach the semi-finals on each occasion.
He was chosen as the Player of the Tournament on his first appearance on the big stage, highlighting the impact he made at the international level.
The World Cup was staged in England on that occasion, but England was unable to take advantage as they were blown away by New Zealand in the semi-finals.
They are one of the favorites with online betting site Betway to lift the trophy this time around and Peacock thinks playing at home could help their cause.
“It’s 22 years later and there has been a lot of hard work put in by Rugby League World Cup chief executive Jon Dutton and his team.
“The best comparison I can give you is our opening game in the 2000 World Cup was against Australia in front of 20,000 people at Twickenham.
“The opening game this year against Samoa is in front of a sold-out crowd in Newcastle.
“There’s a real thirst in this country, probably since the 2012 Olympics, for world-class, elite sport and people are going to watch it regardless of whether they know the sport because they want to be part of the event.
“So, for me, the difference will be packed out stadiums, lots of media, and it feels like the country’s involvement. I think when I played, it felt like a bit of an afterthought.”
England kicked off their bid to win the World Cup with an impressive 60-6 victory over Samoa at St James’ Park last weekend.
The result fired Shaun Wane’s side to the top of Group A and they look like a good bet to stay there with games against France and Greece to come.
Things may get trickier in the knockout stage, with some talented southern hemisphere sides lying in wait in England’s half of the draw.
However, they are expected to make it to the final, where their opponents would likely be either Australia or New Zealand.
Winning the tournament for the first time would be a massive achievement for England, and could help to significantly boost the profile of the sport in this country.
Peacock believes the additional exposure offered by a major international tournament could be the catalyst for the sport to flourish over the coming years.
“The Super League has probably helped attract more casual viewers and helped the game grow at the grassroots level,” he added.
“But I think if this tournament goes well, the game could strengthen through casual viewers becoming more hardened fans, which will then inspire the next generation.
“I think the people watching for the first time are going to see the most exciting team sport on the planet.
“It’s very simple to understand, but difficult to master with incredible athletes and great intensity.”