RUGBY LEAGUE WORLD CUP
Australia v Fiji
Fiji stunned the Kiwis on Saturday with a very spirited defensive effort, running out eventual winners in a try-less match; their record to date though would suggest that was no fluke as whilst they have played some pretty meek opposition they’ve been consistent in everything they’ve done, conceding just 28 points in four games whilst accumulating 168 on attack.
Australia is going to be a very different proposition for the Fijians compared to the feeble Kiwis outfit and will test the Fijian defence like they’ve never been tested before. I love the passion of the Fijians and would love to see them make a game of this but against a very well organised, motivated and highly professional Kangaroos side (basically everything the Kiwis weren’t last week) I can’t help but feel they’ll leak like a sieve in defence.
The Kangaroos have barely broken a sweat this RLWC, they swept aside Samoa with ease last week 46-0 (a side that’s arguably on par with the Fijians in terms of player talent) and given Fiji didn’t manage to cross the Kiwi try-line last week the signs are not good for them on attack here against a much better organised and more determined Kangaroos defensive line that’s conceded just 10 points in four games.
I can’t see Fiji breaking double digits here but the Aussies certainly will as they play like the team of highly paid professionals they all are and cover the manageable point start the bookies have given to Fiji. Take a bow however Fiji as you’ve done your country proud in this tournament! Pick - 4 units on Australia -24.5 point start
England v Tonga
There is a tidal wave of support behind this Tongan side in New Zealand, with tickets to this match selling fast meaning England are going to be faced with a very boisterous capacity crowd all cheering for Tonga.
England have played in this tournament very much like a typical Wayne Bennett coached side – clinical, well-drilled and strong defensively. An issue they have though is they don’t seem to have another gear to go up but rather they play at a similar level the whole game which may not suffice here against a very emotional Tongan side who feed on momentum. Tonga have shown time and again that they have several gears and when they are at full throttle they are very difficult to stop and England are certainly going to have their hands full here.
As long as Tonga can harness the energy from the crowd in a positive way and not be overcome by the occasion then they certainly offer very good value for the win. The Tongan side is chock full of NRL professionals so they should not be overwhelmed here; the English side however are in for a rude awakening as they will not have experienced an atmosphere like what they’ll be faced with here possibly ever.
The Tongan halves in Lolohea and Hingano have surprised me at how well they have run the attack, sure they have had a good ride behind such a dominant forward pack but nonetheless it still takes plenty of skill to utilise that momentum.
Tonga have plenty of momentum going into this game and I am happy to back this juggernaut to roll over England for the upset win in what promises to be a cracker of a game! Pack – 4 units on Tonga to win