Wales coach John Kear believes the current World Cup is the ideal stage to show that Rugby League is the “best sport in the world”.
Kear leads his Wales team into action on Wednesday when they take on the Cook Islands at Leigh Sports Village in their opening game in group D.
The current Widnes Vikings coach knows full well his side will not win the competition, but he believes his team and the sport in general has the platform to show the world what they are missing.
“In all honesty, I think we have a great opportunity to show how great our sport is,” said Kear.
“I am excited from a Wales point of view obviously, but I am also excited from the game’s point of view.
“Society has had three years of hell. International sport has had three years of hell and I didn’t like elite sport being played in empty stadiums. I just thought it was soulless.
“Now we are finally here and you see all these great elite athletes; we are going to have packed stadiums with great players. We are going to be able to showcase what I think is the best sport in the world.”
Kear admits Wales are not blessed with NRL stars and Super League Grand Final winners, but they have pride in their shirt and he is keen to build from within.
“It is time for us as a sport to be headline makers rather than down the pecking order on magazine shows and news shows,” added Kear.
“I really think it is a great opportunity for the sport. From a Wales point of view it’s a great opportunity for us because we are very much into developing our own players now.
“Gone are the days when you can sign a Jiffy (Jonathan Davies) from rugby union because they were amateur. They are as professional as Rugby League now and the wages are probably better than Rugby League.
“We have to grow our own and that is what we are doing. We have twelve Welsh-born players as well as lads who have come through our system.”
Kear admits that although he wants to win every game, he has to be realistic about Wales’ chances in what he calls a ‘Group of Death’, which also includes Tonga and Papua New Guinea.
He has set the target of getting a first World Cup win since Wales beat PNG in the quarter-finals in 2000.
“Realistically, we are not going to win it. But we have to make sure we do ourselves proud. That has been the focus within the group,” said Kear.
“We are realistic, but we also know there are some exciting achievable targets as well that we can make.
“Wales have not won a proper World Cup tournament game since 2000. They didn’t qualify in 2008. In 2013 and 2017 we qualified but went out in the group stages without winning, so an incremental result for us would be to nail a victory.
“If we could do that, we would go away absolutely delighted. If you get one victory, your self-belief and confidence just start coursing through your veins.”
The above content is also available in the regular weekly edition of League Express, on newsstands every Monday in the UK and as a digital download. Click here for more details.