Rugby League World Cup Preview
Rugby League World Cup Preview

What not to miss in RLWC this weekend

THE final round of Rugby League World Cup pool matches is headlined by one of the most anticipated Tests for a long time - here's the things we can't wait to see.


7.40pm AEDT Friday at Canberra Stadium (TV: 7mate)

The Bati have made easy work of their first two opponents USA and Wales - scoring 130 points - and will finally face some resistance and an Italian side littered with NRL talent.

After a shocking loss to Ireland in the opening week, the Azzurri got their campaign back on track with a commanding win against the Hawks.

Star James Tedesco put a week of off-field headlines behind him to help lead his side to a 46-0 thumping from an unfamiliar position in the halves. He's been named at fullback for this clash with veteran Terry Campese expected to return from injury, in what has been touted as the Canberra farewell for the former Raider.

Up front, the Italians could have the wood over Fiji with the likes of Dragons forward Paul Vaughan and fiery Eels Nathan Brown leading their forward pack.

But the Bati make-up for it with an electric backline led around by Jarryd Hayne. Fiji should be too good in this one and a win will see them earn a spot in the quarter-finals. For the Italians, they would need a huge a 45-point to secure a finals berth after dropping their first game against Ireland.

Fiji will look to Jarryd Hayne in their last pool match.
Fiji will look to Jarryd Hayne in their last pool match.


3pm AEDT Saturday at Waikato Stadium (TV: 7mate)

This is easily one of the most anticipated Test matches in a long time.

Jason Taumalolo's surprise defection right before the World Cup certainly lit a fire under this tournament - and you can bet that the Kiwis have spent the last five weeks plotting his and Tonga's demise.

For New Zealand, the defection of Taumalolo and co has almost been a shot in the arm. You sense they have never been more proud to wear the Kiwis jumper.

It has also galvanised coach David Kidwell and the playing group, after talk there was a disconnect between the two.

He's found a formula that is working: second-phase play on the back of New Zealand's huge forward pack rolling forward.

We expect this to be a tight affair and one that will be won or lost in the middle of the park, with both packs going at it hammer and tongs. With the likes of Martin Taupau, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Andrew Fifita and Taumalolo, we're in for an afternoon of bone-crunching footy.

Jason Taumalolo faces his former Kiwis teammates.
Jason Taumalolo faces his former Kiwis teammates.


6pm AEDT Saturday at Barlow Park, Cairns (TV: 7mate)

As if conceding a massive 124 points in two matches wasn't bad enough, Scotland were forced to sack three players last weekend, one of which was their skipper Danny Brough.

Brough, Johnny Walker and Sam Brooks were dumped after they were refused on to a flight for being intoxicated. The incident only compounded what has been a disappointing showing for the Bravehearts in this tournament.

Despite this, Samoa somehow find themselves in the same predicament as Scotland, needing a win in this clash to qualify for the quarter-finals. Having said that, this game feels like a foregone conclusion for the Scottish.

Samoa will be too strong and too skilful and a blowout score is on the cards.

Samoa coach Matt Parish has made some changes for this match. Fa'amanu Brown has finally been handed the reins in attack and will start at halfback while Frank Pritchard has been left out of the side.

Scotland's captain Danny Brough was sent home after an off-field indiscretion. PICTURE: ANNA ROGERS
Scotland's captain Danny Brough was sent home after an off-field indiscretion. PICTURE: ANNA ROGERS


8pm AEDT Saturday at Sydney Football Stadium (TV: Channel 7)

Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga has decided to rest Billy Slater and Josh Dugan meaning a reshuffle in the backline.
Their omission does not detract from Australia's potency at the back with young guns Val Holmes, Tom Trbojevic and Cameron Munster all named to play.

Up front, Australia aren't messing around and have named a full-strength forward pack.

The Cedars were gallant in the way they stood up to England's pack in week two but you get the feeling the Kangaroos will be packing a bit too much muscle for Lebanon to handle.

Lebanon were disciplined with the ball against England and completed at 80 per cent but couldn't capitalise on their opportunities.

They'll need five-eighth Mitchell Moses and hooker Michael Lichaa to tap into the form that helped them lead Lebanon to a win against France in Canberra on the opening weekend.

Valentine Holmes has been named at fullback for the Kangaroos.
Valentine Holmes has been named at fullback for the Kangaroos.


4pm AEDT Sunday at National Football Stadium, Port Moresby (TV: 7mate)

The Kumuls secured a spot in the quarter-finals with the ugliest of wins against Ireland last week.

There's no doubt Papua New Guinea have been one of the highlights of the World Cup, but the standard of footy last weekend left a lot to be desired.

Coach Michael Marum will be looking for a more disciplined performance after his side gave away seven penalties, made a whopping 18 errors and completed at below 60 per cent. He knows that won't cut in the business end.

Physically the USA just haven't been up to the task and they are about to come head-to-head with possibly the most physical team in the tournament. This one could get ugly for the Hawks and fast.

An honourable mention goes to Kumuls winger Garry Lo, watching him barrel over opposition defenders has been one of our favourite things to watch in the World Cup.

And Lachlan Lam, the son of former Roosters and Maroons star Adrian, will make his test debut.

Gary Lo made 10 tackle busts against Ireland.
Gary Lo made 10 tackle busts against Ireland.


6.30pm AEDT Sunday at Perth Stadium (TV: 7mate)

While neither nation is likely to qualify for the next stage of this tournament, their campaigns could not have been any more different.

Wales have struggled to compete. They scored only two tries so far and have conceded 122 points in their two pool matches. They let Fiji run in 14 tries to fall to their worst ever World Cup loss, a 72-6 hammering.

The Irish on the other hand have really made a fist of things. They shocked the Italians with a win in week one and took PNG right down to the wire.

Outside of England, Ireland have been the most impressive European side, they are well-coached and boast plenty of experience especially through the middle. They deserve to go out on a winning note and should do so.

Liam Kay after Ireland’s tough loss to PNG.
Liam Kay after Ireland’s tough loss to PNG.


9pm AEDT Sunday at Perth Stadium (TV: 7mate)

England were too classy for Lebanon on the weekend but to say coach Wayne Bennett was not happy with their performance is an understatement.

When it looked like they would put the Cedars to the sword they lost their way in the second half and Bennett wasn't impressed. England will be in search a convincing win ahead of the quarter-finals and Bennett has switched things up a bit in search of that.

He was hardly glowing of his appraisal of Dragons playmaker Gareth Widdop in the post-match press conference and has opted to start him at fullback this week. It's an interesting move considering halfback Luke Gale has struggled to find his feet so far in this tournament.

The French were trounced by the Kangaroos with Wade Graham having a field day down their right-hand side.

A win here for them is very unlikely, but like Lebanon before them, they have what it takes to at least be competitive in this match.

Gareth Widdop has been named at fullback.
Gareth Widdop has been named at fullback.