The ordinary man on the street may not have known due to the shocking lack of coverage on the mainstream news, but, a Rugby League World Cup has been played out over the five weeks. It is had everything; thrills and spills, dazzling skill, and entertainment of the highest order, this tournament has truly been one of the best in Rugby League's history.

United the country

Although other sports such as Rugby Union and Football can bring together the English nation, they do not quite do it as well as Rugby League. Rivalries aside, the good luck messages and the genuine bond between club fans in support of their country has been remarkable to witness.

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24 hours before the final against Australia, the amount of social media support for the England players from fans of clubs whom have grown to hate each other, was astonishing. The support has been so magnificent that even two hashtags have appeared over the past few weeks on the social media giant Twitter, with both #WallofWhite and #BringItHome trending on Friday and Saturday before, during and after the final.

A World Cup that defied expectations

Before the World Cup had started there were few signs of the sheer excitement that viewers would be exposed to; New Zealand had had disciplinary issues which would eventually mark their performances at the tournament, England fans were frustrated at Wayne Bennett's selection choices in his 24-man squad and Zak Hardaker's drug scandal with few fans believing they could reach the final, Australia were expected to claim the Paul Barriere Trophy with ease once more, the home nations were predicted to struggle because of the lack of genuine quality in their ranks, the Pacific Islands were expected to be their usual gung-ho, passionate selves, but ultimately come up short (although Tonga were tipped as outsiders), whilst the likes of Lebanon were seen as potential walkovers.

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Wind the clock forward a month and the lowly expectations predicted for the World Cup could not have been further from reality. New Zealand played their part in a tremendous tournament, contributing to two of the most exciting games in World Cup history against Tonga and Fiji, England fans could hardly believe their eyes as they reached their first World Cup final in 22 years, Australia triumphed eventually, but not without an almighty scare from England, though Wales and Scotland dished up some embarrassing performances, Ireland came out of nowhere to almost progress through the group stages, the Pacific Islands gave us some of the best moments ever seen on a Rugby League field with PNG, Tonga, Samoa and Fiji all progressing to the quarter-finals and Tonga and Fiji to the last four, whilst Lebanon proved to be far from the easy target that most had predicted them to be.

A World Cup that had everything

Lebanon's opening-round fixture victory over France meant the Cedars would play in their first quarter-final ever in their short history (a Lebanese Rugby League side was only formed in 1998).

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They took Tonga - a team predicted to ruffle a few feathers - all the way in the last eight, succumbing to a heartbreaking 24-22 defeat. Ireland, meanwhile, despite given little hope, battered both Wales and Italy, though a narrow 14-6 loss to PNG had ended their tournament in somewhat harsh fashion.

Lebanon were not the only ones to burst onto the international scene as the Pacific Islands demonstrated just how far they had come in recent years, leaving fans calling for a separate competition for the Pasifika. Samoa, though bitterly disappointing, made it to the quarter-finals despite not winning a game, PNG destroyed the USA and Wales and scraped through against Ireland to progress to the last eight, whilst Tonga and Fiji stunned the Rugby League world, shattering the previously unbreakable glass ceiling of international Rugby League in the process, with victories over New Zealand.

Australia, in some world-class performances, did not disappoint and broke a number of records throughout the tournament. Winger Valentine Holmes, set a new record for the number of tries in a World Cup match with five in Australia's demolition of Samoa and then, a week later, broke his own record, scoring six as the Kangaroos put Fiji to the sword. In doing so, Holmes smashed fellow countryman Wendell Sailor's previous record of ten tries in a World Cup competition as he hit 12 in outstanding fashion. And, in that game also, Billy Slater became the competition's all-time leading try-scorer after scoring twice to take his tally to 16.

It was also the last tournament at which Rugby League would be blessed to see the irrepressible trio of Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater. With Cronk announcing his international retirement after Australia's 6-0 triumph against England, Slater stating that it would probably be his last game in a green-and-gold shirt and Smith now 34 years of age, the fulcrum upon which Australia have based their team around in the past decade or so has come to an end. What better way to go out than as world champions on home soil.

A demonstration of culture and passion

This World Cup has stood out though for a big reason: the celebration of tradition and the passion and pride exhibited by some nations in particular. The way in which native Papuans embraced the tournament - held in their own country for the first time ever - was nothing short of spectacular and was something which Rugby League fans could not quite believe. Papuans hold their team in the highest regard, some such as Garry Lo, are even treated as deities in a nation where Rugby League is the No.1 sport.

The outburst of joy as schoolchildren were greeted by Lo at the KopKop College in Port Moresby was something which footballers and Union players simply cannot relate to. The atmosphere in Port Moresby's National Stadium when the PNG team took to the field was also unbelievable; a nation where the sport is akin to a religion created noise and colour that has left fans around the world gobsmacked at just how much Rugby League means to the island nation.

The Pacific Islands are renowned for their traditional war hymns and dances too, but, this World Cup saw this procession of culture taken to another level. The Fijian hymn, sang before and after a match, is an emotional and moving tribute, but it has become a phenomenon that fans simply can't stop re-playing on social media. The Tongan war dance - the Sipi Tau - and the Samoan version - the Siva Tau - came together in breathtaking fashion in the two nations' group stage clash in Hamilton, creating a superb spectacle rarely seen before in any sport. Meanwhile, the New Zealand haka has a reputation all of its own, but it never ceases to impress. And, when the Kiwis hosted Tonga in their brilliantly entertaining group game, the haka literally brought both sides head-to-head in a heart-stopping moment that had viewers on the edge of their seats.

A legacy

The general buzz that the World Cup has created needs to be exploited; Rugby League cannot stand still. The sport is expanding throughout the world: the Pacific Islands, Western, Central and even Eastern Europe, North America, Latin America and even in Asia where Lebanon reside, Rugby League is becoming noticed. Investment, though, is desperately needed in countries such as Ireland and the Pacific Islands to take advantage of the hype generated in recent weeks. Only then will it be possible for the rollercoaster ride of this year's World Cup to create a long and lasting legacy that the whole of Rugby League wants. #RugbyLeague #RLWC2017 #AUSvENG