Australia coach Wayne Bennett is expecting a fiercely-competitive battle with Great Britain and New Zealand in the end-of-season Gillette Tri-Nations Series.
Bennett, who succeeded Chris Anderson despite the Kangaroos' 3-0 whitewash in last November's Ashes Series, demonstrated his wholehearted support for the inaugural tournament by flying in from Brisbane for Tuesday's launch at a London city-centre hotel. The Broncos' head coach was joined by Bradford's Kiwi international Robbie Paul and new Great Britain coach Brian Noble, who will lead out his side for the first time against the world champions at the City of Manchester Stadium on October 30.
"It was a wonderful series last year," said Bennett. "I had so much admiration for both teams and I have never seen a better series in any sport in my life. Everybody in Australia talked about it. You're certainly competitive. I think David Waite has made a huge difference and a lot of things are in place."
"Brian Noble is the most successful coach you've got in this country and he wants to do the job, which shows the status it's in at the moment. Probably a decade ago you were struggling to find a coach but there is now a bit of succession planning in place."
Noble, who is expected to make an announcement on his backroom staff later this week, is excited about the triangular tournament, which will be repeated in 2005 and 2006.
He said: "It's a brilliant concept, bring it on. We've played them both separately over the last few years and to throw it all into the mix is going to be a challenge for all three coaches. There will be five high-intense games, four if you're not so successful. There's an excitement about the game over and we're not going into this just to compete. If we prepare well and focus properly, we've as good a chance of winning it as anybody else."
Elland Road has been chosen to host the final on Saturday, November 27. The 42,000-capacity stadium will stage rugby league for the first time since the third Test between Great Britain and Australia in 1997.
The tournament kicks off in New Zealand on Saturday, October 16, when the Kiwis take on the Kangaroos, before moving to Britain, where the same teams will play at Loftus Road the following week.
The City of Manchester Stadium, built for the 2002 Commonwealth Games, will stage rugby league for the first time and Huddersfield's McAlpine Stadium, Wigan's JJB Stadium and the new Kingston Communications Stadium in Hull are the other venues for the group matches.
Rugby Football League executive chairman Richard Lewis said: "The choice of venues reflect the importance of this exciting new tournament. All the selected stadia are suitable for international sporting events."Like