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One day before their final against England, there were still plenty of tickets available online. Partly, you feel, this is because of the inequity of the contest.

England have played well to reach the final, but still most observers and all the bookmakers expect the Kangaroos - the game’s dominant force - to stuff them easily.

The Northampton Saints player, who was unfortunate to miss out on selection for Stuart Lancaster’s RWC 2015 squad, admitted before making his international game against France last year: “It’s normally a ritual for me before every game I play, in that I tend to be sick, so I imagine that ahead of this game – the biggest of my life – that I’ll be doing the same. The nerves will be out of my system as soon as I’ve had my first touch and I’m nice and eased into the game.

I used to pat the grass thinking: ‘That could be AJ’s spot.’” John Smit He may have been formerly the world’s most capped captain – the South African hooker (and occasional prop) led the Springboks 82 times (in a total of 110 Tests) and played in 46 consecutive international matches – but Smit also had one unusual superstition throughout his career: the only colour of underwear that he would use on match day would have to be black, believing it would be bad luck to wear any other hue.

Luther Burrell There are plenty of stories about players – and even whole teams – having a pre-match vomit to clear nerves, though few individuals actually admit to it.

Interestingly a recent survey discovered that almost a quarter of top rugby players tend to strap up age-old injuries, even though they had healed long ago.

Robinson, the former wing or full-back, also – contrary to a number of other players – would insist on heading out of the changing room first.

Even as the World Cup, the sport’s greatest showcase, reaches its long-awaited climax, you still hear occasional voices of dissent.

In Australia, where the final will be played on Saturday, the tournament has struggled to capture the imagination. Even a home semi-final against Fiji in footy-mad Brisbane saw the stadium less than half full.In England, the tantalising possibility of a first World Cup triumph in 45 years has partly disguised a wider puzzlement towards international rugby league: a concept everybody seems to want to work, but nobody can quite decide how.Online forums and social media thrum with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation: not simply over the prospect of defeat, but that the strides made during this tournament may ultimately prove fruitless.Research suggests that rugby union players are more obsessed about pre-match rituals and superstitions than either footballers or cricketers – 13 per cent of those polled thought that touching the tunnel ceiling was key to their performance. Given his meticulous approach to kicking, perhaps it’s no surprise that the 2003 Rugby World Cup hero, who laced England to glory against Australia in their own back yard, had a certain ordered pre-match sequence.Stand-off Wilkinson would always warm up without his England jersey on – that would be saved for the match proper – and then head back to the changing room to put on his shoulder pads, atop a certain lucky garment.But there is also a sense here that rugby league is primarily a domestic rather than an international phenomenon.


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