RUGBY LEAGUE WORLD CUP
Fiji v Italy
With these teams now having each played two games we’ve at least now got a sample size by which to consider – the Fijians have looked brilliant against lowly opposition in Wales and USA whilst the Italians were stunned by what’s turned out to be a strong Ireland team but followed that up with a comprehensive win over USA as well.
The Fijians have all but secured a quarter final spot, barring an absolute catastrophe here (they’d need to lose by 50+ points) so may ease up the tempo whilst this is (most likely) the last game of the tournament for the Italians and they’ll have a point to prove as they’re still trying to save face following the opening week debacle both on and off the field.
Terry Campese has once again been named at five-eighth for Italy and he’ll be desperate to make an appearance at this cup, if he does manage to overcome injury and take the field then there’s no doubt that will be a huge lift for the side in what will ultimately be his international swansong.
Both sides have players capable of breaking the game open, the Fijians more so than Italy, but if the Italians can play with the same amount of spirit they showed last week then they’ve every chance of the upset here, or at the very least making this a close one. The bookies think differently though and have given the Italians a very handy point start which we’ll have a piece of. Pick – 4 units on Italy +21.5 point start
NZ V Tonga
The Kiwis sent out a warning to the likes of Australia and England last week in thrashing Scotland, sure the Scots were dreadful but the Kiwis were clinical in everything they did and what’s been most impressive in their two victories has been the hunger they’ve shown in everything they do. Tonga meanwhile put in a very impressive performance themselves in beating Samoa, a game that they’ll still be feeling the effects from given the ferocious pace and intensity in which it was played.
If revenge was on the mind of the Kiwis in taking on Scotland last week (given they drew with them last year) then it will be doubly-so this week as they’re going head to head with many of the players that deserted them in favour of playing for Tonga, let’s just say they will definitely feel they have a score to settle.
The no nonsense approach Tonga has taken into their first two games has worked well for them, making big yards up the middle of the park and out-muscling their opposition but that approach won’t work so well for them here against a much more experienced and hardened Kiwis side that know exactly what’s in stall for them and will be prepared.
The bookies have set the point start for the Kiwis to cover at around 9.5 which is very manageable as I can see them weathering the initial barrage from Tonga and, just like they did against Samoa, kick on in the second half through superior fitness and general professionalism that the Tongans will lack when truly challenged and behind on the scoreboard. We’ll take the Kiwis to cover. Pick – 3 units on NZ -9.5 or better point start
Samoa v Scotland
Scotland have been an absolute shambles at this RLWC with two absolute thrashings by Tonga and New Zealand add to that the three players sent home, their captain Danny Brough being one of them, and they’ve hardly covered themselves in glory this past month. Things are only set to get worse for the Scots here as the Samoans will be itching to take on some weak opposition after the tough opening fortnight against NZ and Tonga, one gets the feeling they’ll very much enjoy bullying the Scots on their way to an absolute thrashing.
There’s not a whole lot to add here, the Scots have looked like boys taking on men in their opening two games, their forwards have lacked any impact, they’ve shown no enterprise on attack and the less said about their defence the better. Samoa should have it all their way here and whilst the start is large in favour of the Scots the Samoans should easily account for it. Pick – 3 units on Samoa -36.0 point start
Australia v Lebanon
Lebanon have been impressive thus far in beating France and keeping the score line respectable against England (29-10); it’s not just been their NRL stars (Farah, Lichaa, Mannah and Moses) that have impressed but the whole team, particularly on defence where they’ve shown plenty of heart.
The Kangaroos have accounted for England and France in the opening weeks but have not exactly set the world on fire with an attack that’s looked rather predictable and a lack of their usual cohesion across the board. There’s no doubt the Aussies will fully hit their straps eventually at this tournament but it’s likely to be in the finals and not in the last pool game against an opposition they’re expected to thrash.
The start on offer to Lebanon is sitting at around 46 points which is very generous considering how well they’ve defended and the fact they do have some sting to their attack; they’ll also be very fired up for this as there’s a large Australian-based contingent in their side who will all have a point to prove. Pick – 3 units on Lebanon +46.5 point start
PNG v USA
There’s no sugar-coating the USA effort to date at this RLWC – they’ve been dreadful in conceding 104 points against Fiji and Italy, if there is any sort of positive they can try and take into this clash (and it’s somewhat grasping) it would be that their defence looked better organised against Italy last week than in the opening round massacre.
PNG go into this as huge favourites and rightfully so but the point start the bookies are giving to the USA side is absolutely huge (sitting at around 60); PNG are prone to high error counts (27 incomplete sets thus far) and also lack a decent goal kicker (6 from 13 conversions) which is crucial when considering the start on offer.
There’s no doubt PNG will win this comfortably but the line looks way too large for mine and we’ll take the USA to get within it. Pick – 4 units on USA +56.0 point start
Ireland v Wales
Ireland have been one of the surprise packages of the RLWC thus far - beating Italy first up then narrowly losing to PNG last week; they’ll find things a bit different here though being the favourites and taking on a fellow European league minnow nation.
Man for man there really isn’t a lot between these sides, Ireland do have the advantage in big game (NRL and Super League) experience but don’t write off the likes of Davies and Ansell to spark the Welsh attack.
Wales are being offered a very generous start, way to generous IMO, we’ll take the Welsh to keep it respectable. Pick - 4 units on Wales +26.5