Following 5 weeks of competition, the Rugby League World Cup is left with two teams desperate to achieve the title of World Champions. Ironically enough, the final game of the tournament was also the opening game, with much more to play for now as Australia and England face off for the title. The tournament has seen a resurgence in international rugby league and the quality has been lifted; with such a high benchmark now established, the challenge ahead is maintaining the credibility in years where a World Cup does not occur. Australia appear to be in prime position to maintain their standing as the premier team in the world of rugby league. They were able to do this in the first meeting of the tournament between these two sides and after easily accounting for other opponents, they are fresh and ready to deliver another stunning performance. There is an edge to this Australian team that has not previously been evident; they are performing with class on and off the field and high standards are maintained in all that they do. It is no surprise that they are in this position, given how teams have lifted in matches against them, yet they are still no match for their execution. The most difficult game of the competition came against England at the start and the visitors will hope to cause their opponents further headaches. Fiji failed to build any pressure on the Kangaroos in their Semi Final last week, with the hosts cruising to a 54-6 victory; completing at 85% with 56% of possession, making just 7 errors and missing 24 tackles is further evidence of how well they performed. England have been undefeated since their opening round loss, leaving that encounter confident that they could compete with Australia and have managed to improve with every match. Last week, they built a strong lead over Tonga and managed to scrape home on the back of unseen momentum from the island nation. Tonga scored 18 points in 7 minutes and had a few other things gone their way in the dying stages, the Australians may as well be facing a different team altogether. The disparity came in the overall contest, with England completing at 77% compared with Tonga’s 64% and making 3 less errors than their opponents (15 v 12); the worrying statistic for England is that they accumulated 40 missed tackles across the match and they will need to rework their defensive structure ahead of this game. Not many people are giving England a chance of winning this game but with the Kangaroos having more to lose, perhaps England may be able to spring a surprise in the last rugby league match for the season.
Australia = Unchanged.
England = Josh Hodgson (injured) is replaced at hooker by James Roby, with Chris Heighington coming onto the bench.
Overall = Australia 12 Draw 1 England 2
Last Meeting = Australia 18 d. England 4
While England have improved with every game they have played, so too have Australia; it can be a challenge facing lesser opponents each week, yet the way the Kangaroos have executed has displayed a no-nonsense attitude that has allowed them to perform at their best. The rotation of players has been used well by Meniga and the entire squad will head into this game ready to perform. The loss of Josh Hodgson at hooker for England is a massive blow to their chances and had he taken his place in the team, the outcome of this game would’ve been vastly different. He provides an edge in the middle of the field (on both sides of the ball) that allows his team the best chance at dominating the middle of the field; James Roby will have a difficult time maintaining this output over 80 minutes and will need the support of the recognised forwards around him. England coach Wayne Bennett has public stated that his team isn’t playing well enough to win this game; this is a classic tactic from Bennett to divert attention away from his team and allow the level of expectation to be set low. England are expected to lift to another level for this game but so too are their opponents. The Australians are in the best position to take out this match and the odds are firmly in the favour. For England to cause an upset, they would need everything to go their way and yet, something special would still need to be produced. This appears unlikely to occur for a number of reasons; the Australians do a great job of controlling the middle of the field and the speed of play. These two work together in a game and the control that Cameron Smith displays at hooker provides the halves and outside backs with numerous attacking opportunities. The Kangaroos possess more attacking threats in their forwards and with wide running back rowers at their disposal, England’s defence will need to be strong across the field. The best opportunity England will have to disrupt their opponent’s momentum is in the ruck; Lebanon set a precedent in the tournament by slowing the speed at which Australia played at and in turn, it halted the momentum created for the halves. This forced Australia to create their own opportunities and make the most of positive field position. England have the potential to emulate this, however common sense suggests that the Kangaroos will make light work of their opponents over 80 minutes and finish the tournament off with a commanding victory.
Australia -18.5 @ $1.95
Keeping up the pace = Valentine Holmes FTS and/or LTS @ $7 – He has scored 12 tries for the tournament, with 11 of them coming in the past 2 matches. There is no reason why this cannot continue, especially considering how England’s right edge moves up hard and leaves the option for the kick behind their line.