Rugby League World Cup: Pool matches to watch

David Holden Roar Guru

By David Holden, David Holden is a Roar Guru

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    For those of you suffering withdrawals symptoms after a season of rugby league, you haven’t got long to wait.

    The World Cup is less than two weeks away and the five-week competition will keep league fans entertained until early December.

    As always, Australia will go in as favourites and there will be some blow outs along the way. However, there will be some games that are compulsory viewing and I’ve listed five pool games below that will be well worth a look, prior to the finals beginning.

    Australia versus England – Friday 27th October

    This is a good start to the tournament. The Kangaroos should win however an England team including two of the Burgess brothers, James Graham, Gareth Widdop, Josh Hodgson and a number of the UK Super League’s best won’t prove to be a pushover. Holding it in Melbourne should ensure a big crowd.

    England's Sam Burgess (L) scores a try during the 2013 Rugby League World Cup semi-final match between England and New Zealand at Wembley Stadium in London on November 23, 2013. AFP PHOTO / GLYN KIRK

    (AFP PHOTO / GLYN KIRK)

    Papua New Guinea versus Wales – Saturday 28th October
    In reality, any of Papua New Guinea’s games during the pool rounds would do fine. That’s because all of them will be played in Port Moresby. Papua New Guinea has a sprinkling of NRL players but the largest contributor to the team is the Papua New Guinea Hunters, this year’s Queensland Cup winners.

    They play Wales, Ireland and the USA through the pool rounds, and with a fanatical Papua New Guinea crowd behind them, you would expect a spot in the quarter finals.

    France versus Lebanon – Sunday 29th October
    Call me crazy but this one is worth a view. The bulk of France’s team comes from the Catalan Dragons and other Super League teams and they will likely go in as favourite. However, I’m tipping an upset from a Lebanon team featuring Mitchell Moses, Robbie Farah, Michael Lichaa and Tim Mannah.

    There is a question mark as to how Farah and Lichaa will be used on the field, but I think you will see Farah spending plenty of time in the halves with Moses.

    Samoa versus Tonga – Saturday 4th November
    Rather than largely providing criticism, the rugby league community should be thanking Andrew Fifita and Jason Taumalolo for electing to play for Tonga. They’ve created more attention on the World Cup than would otherwise be the case.

    Tonga have assembled a strong squad and will likely go deep into the tournament, but don’t totally discount a boilover here. The Samoan squad has largely gone under the radar but is stacked full of NRL players and will be keen to cause an upset.

    New Zealand versus Tonga – Saturday 11th November
    Ever since Taumalolo elected to pull on a red jersey rather than the black one, this game has been on the radar. Much will depend on the fitness of Shaun Johnson and the effectiveness of the Tongan halves, which is arguably Tonga’s weak link. You can guarantee there will be a large build up to this clash, so the opening skirmishes will be a must watch.

    So there you go, five weeks of league coming up and there are at least five matches worth a watch before the finals get underway. Happy viewing.

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    The Crowd Says (7)

    • Roar Guru

      October 16th 2017 @ 8:31am
      Sleiman Azizi said | October 16th 2017 @ 8:31am | ! Report

      Looking forward to all these matches.

    • October 16th 2017 @ 10:02am
      Fred said | October 16th 2017 @ 10:02am | ! Report

      I can’t wait for these matches as well. France v Lebanon will be very interesting – both of those countries could have done very well in Group B, C or D, unfortunately being in Group A means this match is essentially a knockout for both of them.

      Also can’t wait for Tonga v NZ. In fact, every match in Group B will be tough. I think people are underestimating Scotland, who did great in last year’s 4 Nations, including a draw with NZ.

    • October 16th 2017 @ 10:16am
      Fred said | October 16th 2017 @ 10:16am | ! Report

      I think Australians are underestimating France for the simple reason that, unlike the Island teams, Australians don’t know the players in the French team given none are from the NRL.

      France put in an impressive performance against Jamaica over the weekend, with their halves clicking really well. Theo Fages (who plays for St Helens not Catalans or Toulouse) led the team around with skill. The Jamaica team was stacked with Super League and Chamionship players and was itself unlucky not to have qualified for the world cup. The next world cup will have two qualifiers from the Americas – unlike one this time – so the it will be very interesting to see who makes the cut next time out of the US, Canada and Jamaica.

    • October 16th 2017 @ 10:50am
      chris gow said | October 16th 2017 @ 10:50am | ! Report

      I did a bit of counting: 334 players in the final teams.
      145 NRL players
      75 Superleague players
      55 Non-SL English teams players
      44 Non-NRL Australian team players (including 10 from PNG Hunters)
      23 from other national leagues, including a gutsy 11 from the American domestic league.
      2 players are currently unassigned.
      Tonga, Fiji and Samoa are virtually all-NRL squads while Scotland and Ireland have strong Superleague squads.
      There are going to be a lot more than 5 interesting games, let’s hope the RLWC gets the support it deserves.

    • October 16th 2017 @ 4:35pm
      Dean said | October 16th 2017 @ 4:35pm | ! Report

      As you say David, Samoa have flown under the radar. Samoa v Tonga in either of the Rugby codes is always a must see. Think Australia v England in any sport. One key to who wins in the Samoa v Tonga is who gives away the most penalties. Both teams can be lacking discipline at crucial times in their matches. For casual viewers of rugby league, I rate this as a must see game.

    • October 17th 2017 @ 1:57am
      Rabbits said | October 17th 2017 @ 1:57am | ! Report

      Ireland all day.

      • October 17th 2017 @ 3:40pm
        Benji said | October 17th 2017 @ 3:40pm | ! Report

        Is this a compromised draw like last RLWC? where the minnows avoided the big guys…

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