Self Belief Is The Key For Bell

Former Wigan favourite Dean Bell believes the Kiwis' shock World Cup triumph will work wonders for rugby league in New Zealand - and he also believes there are positives for England despite their major disappointment in Australia.

While England returned home with their tails between their legs after winning just one of their four matches, their semi-final conquerors went on to pull off one of the biggest upsets in sporting history with their 34-20 final win over hot favourites Australia.

Bell, a former captain of New Zealand and their current team manager, is confident the Kiwis can emerge from the shadows of the All Blacks, particularly after they failed to get beyond the quarter-finals of the rugby union World Cup last year.

"It means a lot, it really does," he said. "We're a minority sport but the New Zealand Rugby League are finally getting their act together so it's very positive.

"We've had a lot of support from the League and I suppose it was payback for them."

Saturday's upset at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium came a year on from the Kiwis' record 58-0 humiliation by Australia and a 3-0 series whitewash by Great Britain.

It also came just four weeks after they went down 30-6 in meek fashion to the Kangaroos in Sydney but Bell said coach Stephen Kearney's men never lost their self-belief.

"Since the tournament started, it was all about not if but when Australia would win it and lately by how much," he said.

"The way they dominated the game so far they were always going to be rated favourites but we always knew that you only have to beat them once and that's in the big one."

Australia coach Ricky Stuart admitted his side went into the final under-prepared, having faced Papua New Guinea and Fiji in their two previous matches, while Bell says playing back-to-back games against England enabled New Zealand to become battle-hardened.

"The telling game for us was that semi-final," he said. "The game was in the balance and we came through it despite perhaps not playing as well as we could have done.

"We just had to change a few things in our game. I'm probably the most pessimistic person at times but right from the Monday Steve sat down with the team and said 'listen, this is the way we're going to play the game to beat Australia'.

"We all bought into it and said 'yeah, it's going to work'."

Bell, who spent almost a decade as a player and coach in Super League, believes England's below-par performances in the World Cup highlighted the gap that still exists between the European competition and Australia's National Rugby League.

"There wasn't much in that semi-final," he said. "I know our forwards have great respect for the English pack. Obviously they've got some issues with their defensive positioning out wide but that's fixable.

"I've always said one of the biggest problems is the club competition. There's still too much difference between the top and bottom sides, although that's slowly closing.

"At least it's going in the right direction but the NRL is pretty fierce.

"I'd like to see some more English players coming over like Gareth Ellis and testing themselves. That would be good for them and good for the English game."

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