RFL chief executive Nigel Wood has called 2013 the “most important year since Super League began”.

A World Cup will be held on these shores in what is a massive opportunity for rugby league to make a mark on the country’s sporting public.

Progress on the field is key as Steve McNamara’s side seek to win the trophy for the first time since Great Britain were crowned world champions in 1972.

Former Bulls and Great Britain coach Brian Noble believes England are capable of going all the way but feels the performance of their half-backs will be crucial.

“I’m quite excited about our World Cup prospects,” said Noble, who captained and coached Great Britain during his long association at Bradford.

“Our pack will stand up to any pack in the world but the question marks are the same as when I was coach.

“Who are going to be the half-backs? Who’s going to kick the ball well enough under pressure?

“At the moment I’d probably go for Rangi Chase with Kevin Sinfield or Gareth Widdop. Widdop is playing under pressure every week in the NRL but I’m not too confident I know enough about his kicking game.

“Cameron Smith and James Roby at hooker? I think Roby is up there with Smith.

“I’d have James Graham and Sam Burgess against any Australian front rowers.

“In the back row you have Ben Westwood, Gareth Ellis and Sean O’Loughlin. Throw in Gareth Hock as well and they would compete.

“Jack Reed is playing every week at Brisbane, so pick him and another centre, then you have a back three of say Sam Tomkins, Josh Charnley and Ryan Hall.

“We’re not far off. Every time we played New Zealand or Australia in key games either Stacey Jones or Darren Lockyer turned up and stuffed us.

“It’s about turning up at the right place at the right time and kicking the ball well.

“The unity within the England looks strong but the true acid test of any team is when you’re put under the blowtorch.

“That’s when you truly find out how good you are.

“But can England win it? Absol-utely. I firmly believe that and I’m quite excited.

“It’s about staying healthy, picking the right half-backs and playing the right kind of football at the right time.”

England played France and Wales in the autumn international series and predictably won the tournament at a canter.

Guiseley-based Noble, who has been out of Super League coaching since leaving Crusaders, admitted the real tests will come against Australia and New Zealand.

“When you look at the autumn internationals, did they genuinely do any good for England?” said Noble.

“During my tenure for three years we didn’t play anyone but Australia and New Zealand and there were tangible benefits from that.

“Obviously it was the Great Britain concept back then but what I’m saying is that we didn’t play teams we could knock over easily. I understand why Steve did it, but there’s nothing like playing Australia and New Zealand.

“I would certainly encourage a warm-up game before the World Cup, possibly against France because they provide a good physical challenge. But get your timing right, get your fluidity right.

“It’s about performing at intensity because if you rock slightly less than intense in the NRL then you get beat.

“It’s up to England to get to those levels when it matters most at the World Cup.”