Every country has a list of great athletes. Argentina has Lionel Messi and Portugal has Cristiano Ronaldo, two football players who have been the subject of debate over the last 15 years. Meanwhile, Brazil has Pele, whose legend lives on through various online games, and Canada has Wayne Gretzky and Steve Nash. Japan has Nasa Hataoka, and the United States has Michael Jordan and Lebron James. Australia, too, has had many sporting successes, with recent names like Daniel Ricciardo and Ben Simmons putting the country back on the map for sports outside of rugby and cricket.
In 2021, many countries have had breakout athletes. 18-year-old tennis player Emma Raducanu has emerged as one of Great Britain’s new talents, while 19-year-old Leylah Fernandez has done the same in Canada. Likewise, Australia’s talent pool has reached new heights this year, and Rugby Australia, in particular, is expected to see an increase in viewership in the coming years. Why? Well, because the sport has come to a pivotal point in its history where new players are signing for teams, and clubs are quickly realizing they have the potential to become international franchise pieces.
Recently, all eyes in Australia have been on 22-year-old rugby player Len Ikitau. Ikitau has had a breakout 2021 Super Rugby season after signing for the Brumbies back in 2019; his attacking game and outstanding defensive abilities have been enough to win the attention of the Australian national team. In July 2021, Ikitau made his Test debut against France. Since that moment, the hype around Ikitau has not faded, and it was even reinforced on September 18th after he scored a double in Australia’s Rugby Championship campaign win over South Africa. The win comes on the back of Ikitau signing a new contract with Rugby Australia and the Brumbies that will run until after the World Cup in 2023.
Naturally, with the national team’s roster now including Len Ikitau in addition to Marika Koroibete and Samu Kerevi, many Australians are convinced they’re going to win the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France. Of course, other countries like Japan are gunning for the final, but the optimism in Australia is hard to ignore. In fact, it’s even trickled into the country’s gambling market, where the majority of online betting in Australia centres around sports like rugby, cricket, and horse racing. Australia hosts several European betting companies, including bet365, which has priced the country at 5.00 to win the World Cup. For comparison, India is priced at 3.40 and England at 4.00.
Additionally, Ikitau’s fellow countrymen have praised his talent and potential to become a legend in Australian rugby. In a recent interview, Samu Kerevi, who is considered one of the best centres in the world, said, “the sky is the limit” for Ikitau. “He could be the world’s best 13 if he wanted to be,” Kerevi added. It goes to show that, in sport, eventually, the legends leave the game in the hands of another generation. Interestingly, we’re already seeing this in women’s tennis, and it looks like something similar is happening in Australian rugby.