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Australia is soaking in the World Cup but don’t expect to see many travelling fans

Why Tonga will be confident of reaching the semi-finals; England winger Jermaine McGillvary is one to watch; and where you can catch the games on TV

By Gavin Willacy for No Helmets Required, part of the Guardian Sport Network

Four years ago I also set up camp in a northern outpost for a World Cup group stage. Spending the next week or so in Cairns and Townsville is going to be somewhat different than Workington though. If it wasn’t for the temperature, I could draw comparisons between Cairns lagoon and Whitehaven harbour, but the main similarities are that a town on the outer edge of a nation takes rugby league to its bosom and appears to be revelling in the chance to be a part of a global event.

Like Workington market was in 2013, Cairns is festooned in World Cup bunting on shops and in bars, with the famous fish sculptures on the lagoon dressed in the colours of the five teams who will play here. With four nations staying here before the double header on Sunday, each group of twentysomething blokes in vests, shorts and thongs – and most of them are in flip-flops too – get a second glance in case they are international players. After all, an extraordinary number of young Australian men look like rugby league (or maybe union or Aussie rules) players.

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