Whilst the remainder of the prospective participants for the coming World Cup, in Australia, are left eagerly waiting to see whether they will be included within their country’s squad for the tournament, Salford Red Devils’ own Craig Kopczak has been given advance notice of his reappointment as captain of the Welsh contingent.
Not for the first time the big, powerful, prop will have the honour of leading out his country’s selected seventeen, to do battle in a World Cup tournament, for indeed his tenure as skipper of the side goes back prior to the last World cup of 2013, to 2012, when he wore the captain’s armband for the first time in a winning, away, encounter with France.
It was leading out his side, the following year in the first fixture of the 2013 World Cup, against Italy, in front of all the home fans at the Millennium Stadium, that stands out above all else in his memory.
“That was a magical feeling, walking out into the packed stadium,” he recalls. “The atmosphere was immense, at that moment.
“To do it all over again, this time in Australia, will be absolutely fabulous, and it is a huge honour to be backing up on all the previous tournaments I have been involved in. It also marks the tenth anniversary of my international debut, which obviously is of great significance for me.”
Being held on the other side of the world, however, will mean that it will be a very different experience for them all, this time, as the hoards of passionate fans will be roaring on Papua New Guinea, in this year’s opening encounter.
“True, it will be different, without our fans to help us along,” he agrees, “but nevertheless I will still be extremely proud, and am keenly looking forward to it.”
He had been first notified of his continued appointment by Head Coach, John Kear, in a phone call, a couple of weeks before the end of the season, and because, at the time, he was so heavily involved in Salford’s Super 8s drive, the World Cup had not entered his head, and the call came completely out of the blue. Needless to say, he accepted with the utmost alacrity.
Now that the Red Devils’ season has reached its conclusion, he has been able to turn his mind fully towards it all.
“We will be starting with a short camp in Wales, just as a get together,” he outlines. “It will be really good to see everyone again, and there will also be a meal together with our wives, and partners. We will eventually be leaving mid-October.”
At the time of writing, there was a list of forty players who were in contention for selection, but that will be reduced to twenty-four, by the time that that date comes around.
“Our aim will be to get through the Group Stage,” he divulges. “Because ours is a split group, we cannot afford to lose a single match, and they are all going to be tough, being against, PNG, Fiji, and Ireland. We can’t take any of those for granted, and we’re just going to have to take one stage at a time.”