Rugby League: World Cup has Whare focused on big 2017

By Dale Budge

Dean Whare passes the ball during the Four Nations match against Samoa. Photo / Getty Images
Dean Whare passes the ball during the Four Nations match against Samoa. Photo / Getty Images

Injured Kiwis centre Dean Whare can't help but look ahead to 2017 and the idea of playing in a World Cup on home soil certainly stands out.

The Penrith back ruptured his ACL and underwent season-ending surgery back in May to fix it. As a result the next time he will play again will be World Cup year and you can tell it is motivation for him as he continued to rehab the knee.

"When you play for New Zealand or your country it is always in the back of your mind that you want to represent them," the 26-year-old tells herald.co.nz. "You set goals through the NRL season to make these squads.

"Having been part of the last World Cup in 2013 this is definitely a team I want to make.

"The injury is coming along slowly. It has been two months since my operation now and I start running in a couple of weeks so I will be just in time for the hot weather in Penrith for the pre-season.

"Round one will be my main focus. January will be full contact and ready to go."

The World Cup was launched in dual press conferences in New Zealand and Australia yesterday with the two countries as well as Papua New Guinea playing host to matches in the month-long tournament.

Rugby league fans will be delighted that the Kiwis opener against Samoa and a potential semifinal against England will be held at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland rather than Eden Park. Mt Smart has been the home of the Warriors since the club's inception and is seen as a true league venue rather than the bigger capacity Eden Park with a rich rugby history.

Whare says he is glad the decision to play at Mt Smart has been made.

"I think it is the staple of rugby league in New Zealand. Eden Park is a big rugby-focused stadium. I think having it at Mt Smart is a good idea. The support we get there and the atmosphere is really good."

Also announced yesterday were the pools for the tournament - the Kiwis were drawn alongside Samoa, Tonga and Scotland.

"It is going to be a tough group - Samoa, Tonga even Scotland - we played them at the last World Cup and that was a pretty tough game as well," Whare says.

"It is going to be a real physical pool but we are looking forward to it."

Whare thinks pool games against sides known for their physicality will actually help the 2008 champions prepare for the knockout matches later in the tournament.

"We just have to tough it out with them for the whole 80 minutes," he says. "Having that physical contact - after the NRL season we have a bit of a break - and getting those two big games before hopefully the quarterfinals will really help us."

- NZ Herald

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