RUBGY LEAGUE WORLD CUP
AUSTRALIA v FRANCE
The Kangaroos will be anything but happy with the way they played against England as they looked rusty in most areas, sure they still got the win but this side does not settle for mediocrity and France are likely to feel the backlash here as Mel Meninga demands improvement from his side.
France too won’t be happy with their opening game where they were beaten by a solid Lebanese side that boasted a few NRL big-guns in Farah and Moses who both made a big impact and considering they’re about to come up against an entire team of NRL stars here you really do see why the bookies have made the line here so large.
With two of the new members of the Kangaroos, Campbell-Gillard and McLean, both starting at prop the French are going to have a big task containing them alone with both men weighing in at 115 kg and both in bulldozing form towards the back-end of the NRL season. Those are just two players in what is a very formidable forward pack; there’s also a few players who are looking to stake their claims as top-dog in their position for the back end of the competition which all equates to trouble for the French.
The error rate of the French last week was high and with the added pressure the Kangaroos defence will place on them it’s not likely to improve here which will give the Aussies plenty of possession to work with – take the Kangaroos to cover the line in what will be a very one-sided affair. Pick – 2 units on Australia -56.5 or better point start
NZ v Scotland
It was just this time last year that the Scots shocked the Kiwis and drew with them in the UK; the stage is very different here though with the home advantage to the Kiwis and the stakes being much higher.
The Scots were embarrassed in the first half against Tonga on Sunday, going into the break 38-0 down, but came back much stronger in the second half conceding just the two tries (one of which was an intercept) and scoring one of their own. That match will have been the perfect preparation for the Scots going into this clash as the Kiwis also have a large and physical pack that will look to dominate up front so there should be few surprises for the Scots and they’ll have renewed confidence in their defence following that second half effort.
The Kiwis have made seven changes to the side which easily beat Samoa, not exactly changes that strengthen their side though with the fringe players being given a shot at impressing the coaches; this could play into the Scots hands as the Kiwis elected to not have any warm-up games leading into the RLWC and looked very rusty at times last week and they’re having to start again somewhat here with new combinations.
The Kiwis have by far the more dangerous side right across the park but I saw enough resolve in the Scots second half performance against Tonga to suggest they’re capable of limiting the damage here; the bookies don’t think so though and have given the Scots a huge start which we’ll happily have a piece of. Pick – 4 units on Scotland +45.5 point start
Tonga v Samoa
This clash is going to be absolutely ferocious as the deep-rooted rivalry between these two very proud Pacific nations comes to a head in Hamilton; the lead up itself has been marred with clashes between rival fans which will only serve to pour even more emotion into the players.
Man for man the Tongans have the stronger of the two sides but given the very similar playing styles and physical attributes of both teams I can see them cancelling each other out in a storm of huge hits, high error counts and penalties.
Samoa have had the tougher of the lead-in matches in losing to the Kiwis last week with a performance they’ll be anything but happy with as their error count was through the roof, something they’ll definitely be targeting here for improvement.
Whilst the Tongans have a side that’s choc-full of power they’re lacking players to take full advantage of that as Hingano and Lolohea appear to be a weak point of theirs in the halves; Samoa do have the slight advantage there with Roberts and Paulo both more experienced and more capable of controlling the game.
The start on offer to the Samoan side is sitting at just over two converted tries and in what I expect to be a very brutal and close encounter it’s worth backing. Pick - 3 units on Samoa +12.5 point start
PNG v Ireland
PNG were one of the more impressive nations in round one, demolishing Wales 50 - 6, that was off the back of 11 incomplete sets too so there is plenty of room for improvement here. It was obvious to see from their play that the majority of the players are very familiar with each other having been a part of the successful Hunters team and their cohesion is likely to be a big factor here as well.
Ireland pulled off the only upset of round one in thrashing Italy 36 –12, they didn’t need to show a lot of enterprise but rather a very flat Italian side made it easy for them.
The forecast for Sunday is for 32° in Port Moresby which is going to play into the hands of PNG and Ireland are likely to wilt as the game goes on. The points start on offer sits at just under three converted tries, PNG are likely to make the most of the home advantage though and should run out comfortable winners. Pick - 3 units on PNG -16.5 or better point start
Italy v USA
The Italians managed to embarrass themselves on and off the field in round one and it will remain to be seen whether they have any heart in their squad because with a number of the players they have they really should easily account for this USA side.
There isn’t a whole lot to say for this match as neither side covered themselves in glory in round one with the USA also suffering a humiliating loss at the hands of Fiji.
I’m backing the Italians to come out firing here as they have copped a world of criticism from all corners and have the far greater capability within the their side to bounce back in style. We will take the Italians to cover the start and bury the Demons of round one. Pick – 2 units on the Italy -20.5 point start