France v Australia
The Australian’s are overwhelming favorites for this game following their opening victory over England. Many agencies are not taking bets on the Kangaroos, with the belief that this is a forgone conclusion; well supported by the loss France suffered to Lebanon on Sunday. The short turnaround into this game only increases the difficulty, with France forced to improve several areas of their game in order to be competitive; the most glaring issue was their 68% completion rate, continually providing their opponents with positive field position. The Kangaroos were far better in their match, completing at 79% and making the most of opportunities presented to them; a late try to Josh Dugan sealed the result and until the 78th minute, there was a genuine sense that England could steal victory. That being said, the defensive structure of the Kangaroos was great and only improved after conceding the first try in the 4th minute of the match. That game was exactly what Australia needed to begin the tournament, a tough match against a team they could face later on in the competition when more is at stake. Here, the lack of quality in their opponents team has allowed coach Mal Meniga to rest a few players and open the opportunity for 4 new players to debut at International level; Tom Trbojevic (wing), Reagan Campbell-Gillard (prop), Cameron Munster (bench) and Felise Kaufusi (bench) are all willing selections and will be out to make a statement at this level. The other major change to this team is the resting of Cooper Cronk at halfback, with James Maloney given the start. This should not disrupt the attacking flow of the team, with 3 out of the 4 players in the spine from last weeks match featuring again and dispel any thought the Kangaroos may struggle with combinations. Make no mistake, the French team will be aware that performing well against the best team in the competition is an opportunity to make a name for themselves; nevertheless, playing well is one this, winning this game is another challenge altogether and one that looks beyond France in this match.
Australia -56.5 @ $1.90
Worth some thought = Australia 61-70 @ $4 – This game will be one-way traffic from start to finish; if last weeks effort is anything to go by for France, then they are going to find it difficult to compete for 80 minutes. With the Kangaroos bringing wave after wave of attack, this game could be more comfortable than the line is suggesting.
Turbo-Roo = Tom Trbojevic FTS and/or LTS @ $5.50 – Trbojevic debuts for the Kangaroos in this game and he has proven that he can find his way to the try line. Expect him to benefit from a host of talent around him and back himself if he gets close to a chance of scoring.
New Zealand v Scotland
The Kiwis performance last week was far better than was expected, with a level of maturity in their play being the major difference in their 38-8 win over Samoa. There is some doubt and perhaps their strong performance was the result of a lack of quality on the other side of the ball. There is still plenty of improvement needed from this team if they are aiming to compete with the likes of Australia and England; with 54% of possession, the Kiwis only completed 62% of attacking sets, made a massive 17 errors and missed 34 total tackles. Coach David Kidwell has taken the opportunity to make a few changes to his team against Scotland, an opponent that isn’t rated highly and will struggled yet again, following their 50-4 loss to Tonga. In that fixture, Tonga lead 38-nil at HT and were set to put a large score on their opponents and Scotland are somewhat lucky that their opponents came out with a lower intensity in the second half. They were out of their depth last week and while brave with their efforts, the difficulty only increases and they will again be headed for a large loss.
New Zealand -45.5 @ $1.90
Tonga v Samoa
Generally speaking, this would be a thrilling contest to look forward to between two bruising opponents that are bound to lift the intensity against their island rival. The preparation leading into this tournament has changed the circumstances dramatically, with Tonga benefitting from several players declaring their allegiances with them. Their class was on show last week against Scotland, hammering their opponents 50-4 after mounting a 38-nil HT lead. It wasn’t just the force and speed that they played at, but a high level of execution that their opponents struggled to match. On the other hand, Samoa were outclassed by New Zealand 38-8, given minimal opportunities and failed to build pressure on their opponents. This was evident as they completed at just 57%, made 16 errors and missed a total of 36 tackles. Such statistics will never lead to success and they will need a dramatic shift in attitude and execution if they are to be competitive here. That appears unlikely, especially with the lack of experience to call upon in key positions. It is now Tonga’s turn to bring pain upon to their rival and there is no doubt that they will be relentless with their intensity and pressure, aiming to play for 80 minutes.
Tonga 13+ @ $1.95
England v Lebanon
England only gained admirers with their 18-4 loss to the Kangaroos last Friday in Melbourne, with many surprised with the level of fight within this team. There is no doubt that they will improve with each game, although they have some injuries to contend with in finding the right balance to their team. They have the opportunity to get their campaign back on track against a spirited Lebanon outfit that is fresh of a win over France. They prevailed in a tense contest, with the experience from NRL players proving to be the difference; this was noticeable at the end of attacking sets and the way they built pressure on their opponents. It was not all positive though, completing at 69% demonstrated how they can be prone to turning the ball over, while they will also have to reduce their 35 missed tackles if they are to be competitive. The likelihood that they could cause an upset is low and this match is vital for England to be reminded of the confidence that underpins the talent in this team. Once the Poms gather momentum in attack, they will be very difficult to breakdown and you can ensure that they will be built around a strong defensive structure if last week is anything to go by.
England -30.5 @ $1.90
PNG v Ireland
PNG had everything their own way last week against Wales, winning 50-6 and not conceding a try until the 79th minute of play. Their opponents were always going to find it difficult, ambushed in PNG by the passionate fans and a team that was never going to give up their advantage easily. In the end, the class of PNG prevailed and showed that they have benefitted from a year together in the WLD Cup, with some NRL players adding experience where needed. They will be out to again prove themselves a willing candidate to progress beyond the group stage, yet will find this match more difficult against a team in Ireland, that is coming off an upset 36-12 win over Italy. The Irish managed to do the little things right over 80 minutes, reaping the rewards early and jumping to a 20-nil lead after 30 minutes. It was a simple game plan that had them completing at 78%, committing 11 errors and missing 32 tackles; many teams would desire such a level of execution and in this instance, it worked in their favor. The difficulty of the task is increased for this game though, with their opponents accustomed to the conditions and bound to bring a level of physicality to this match that the Irish side would have rarely faced before. With discipline now a major part of their game (10 errors and 19 missed tackles last week), this game is a matter of how much PNG wins by. Considering the positive factors for the home team, they should easily dispose of their opponents at the end of 80 minutes.
PNG -16.5 @ $1.90
The one they Mead = David Mead FTS and/or LTS @ $8 – Mead has been dynamic in every match he plays for PNG and this game will be no different. He scored the opening 2 tries of the match last week and he is bound to be close to the ball again in this game, as a major asset in attack.
Italy v USA
It has been a rough start to their RLWC campaign for the Italians, suffering an upset 36-12 loss to Ireland last Sunday. The execution early on in the match was poor and this is where Ireland took advantage, jumping to a 20-nil lead after 30 minutes. Injuries didn’t assist their cause and it was noticeable early on that their potential had been overstated prior to the tournament. An ugly off-field incident following that match has only added to the pain and they will need this match to get their campaign back on track. They are strong favorites again, although their opponents in this match appear less likely to cause an upset. The USA were outplayed in all areas of their match last week against Fiji, comprehensively beaten 58-12. That score line was no surprise and missing a massive 55 tackles highlighted the lack of quality within this team. No doubt the Italians will want to take full advantage of their opponents situation and have the potential to do so. While both teams are expected to improve, the final margin is bound to way heavily in favor of the team with more NRL experience to call upon. That being said, you can never be sure of just how each will perform, meaning that you cannot specifically settle on a large margin.
Italy 13+ @ $1.47
Fiji v Wales
Fiji sent a warning that they are a team that shouldn’t be forgotten with the hype surrounding other pacific nations gathering greater attention. They performed as expected last week against the USA, handing their opponents a 58-12 loss in exciting style. Attack was always going to be strong within this team, but only missing 15 tackles across the match highlighted the shift in attitude within this squad. Meanwhile, Wales attempted to upset PNG in their first home game of the World Cup, but it wasn’t to be, beaten 50-6 by a superior opponent. That result was somewhat expected and having to wait until the 80th minute for their first points demonstrated the distinct difference between the two sides. In a positive for Wales, they completed at 85%, yet were brought undone by their horrible 76 missed tackles. An improvement is expected, but not enough to disrupt the increasing momentum of their opponents and Fiji are again expected to dominate this contest from start to finish.
Fiji -44.5 @ $1.80
Multi = PNG -16.5, England -30.5, Tonga 13+, Italy 13+ & Fiji -44.5 @ $18.62