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Rugby League World Cup 2017: Week 3 previews

We preview the final set of matches of the group stages to be played this weekend, as the nations who have not yet qualified for the knock-out stages can do so here.

Fiji vs Italy

Canberra Stadium, Canberra, Australia

Friday 10 Nov, 19:40 AEDT

Technically, this match between Fiji and Italy shapes as a battle for top spot in Group D, thereby leading to progression into the quarterfinals for the winner. However, the Fijians have a points differential of +112, compared to +22 for the Italians. 

This means that for the Azzurri to progress, they will need to defeat the Bati by over 90 points. Given the manner in which the Fijians have been scoring their points, as well as their form in general, it’s rather difficult to envision anything other than a commanding Fijian victory, which will see them face either New Zealand or Tonga in the knock-out stages. 

Fiji by 30.

New Zealand vs Tonga

Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, New Zealand

Saturday 11 Nov, 17:00 NZDT

Here we have the match of the round, featuring co-hosts New Zealand against the star-studded and in-form Tonga. Although the Kiwis plowed through the Samoans and the Scottish in their previous group matches, they undoubtedly face their toughest challenge yet, given the obvious strength of the Tongans. There will inevitably feature an abundance of emotion to feature in this match, given the defections of various Tongans from New Zealand, with Jason Taumalolo being the highest profile leaver. 

Although both teams have sealed qualification, the winner will claim top spot of Group B and encounter whoever finishes 3rd in Group A, which is likely to be either Lebanon, France or England in the quarterfinals. Conversely, the loser will settle for second place and will likely encounter Fiji in the knock-out stages. Despite the Kiwis having home advantage, we can sense that the Tongans are primed for an upset. As such, that is how we will tip what is sure to be a close one. 

Tonga by 7.

Samoa vs Scotland

Barlow Park, Cairns, Australia

Saturday 11 Nov, 16:10 AEST

With both teams being convincingly beaten by New Zealand and Tonga, Samoa and Scotland are left to scrap it out for third place and the final qualifying spot in the quarterfinals. For the Scottish, they have had a less than ideal preparation for this match, with three of their players (including skipper Danny Brough) sent home for misconduct. This is an opportunity for the Samoans to inflict further misery on the Scots, thereby qualifying for the next round. 

The bad news for the winner is that their opponents in the quarterfinals are more than likely to be Australia, which is a daunting prospect for anyone. We’d love to see the Bravehearts fire up and have a red hot go, given what’s at stake. However, to be realistic, it’s difficult to see the Scottish claiming victory, meaning the Samoans are the ones most likely to secure the final qualifying spot. 

Samoa by 18.

Australia vs Lebanon

Sydney Football Stadium, Sydney, Australia

Saturday 11 Nov, 20:00 AEDT

Here we have Australia who has already qualified for the knock-out stages against Lebanon who have exceeded all expectations in this tournament. Thus, the Lebanese are in pole position to claim the final qualifying spot of Group A. 

Despite the Aussies having already qualified, there is sure to be an abundance of emotion on display, especially with Kangaroos winger Josh Mansour being of Lebanese descent, but opting to represent Australia. 

Moreover, a few of the Lebanese players, such as Robbie Farah, Michael Lichaa, Tim Mannah and Mitchell Moses are actually Australian born. There is certain to be a large presence of support for the Cedars, despite the Aussies being the hosts. 

The Aussies will face either the Samoans or the Scottish in the quarters, having essentially sealed top spot of Group A. Should the Cedars seal qualification, they will encounter either the Kiwis or Tongans in the knock-out stages. The Lebanese are certain to have a dig, however, it’s rather difficult to see them going past the Aussies in this match.

Australia by 20.

USA vs Papua New Guinea

Oil Search National Football Stadium, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea

Sunday 12 Nov, 15:00 PGT

The final inter-group match to be played. With effectively one foot in the quarterfinals, Papua New Guinea would love to make sure of progression for the first time since 2000. Should this be the case, they will likely encounter England or Lebanon in the quarters. 

Conversely, the USA is now unable to progress to the next stage, and can only attempt to end their tournament on a positive note with a victory. Although the Kumuls were clunky in their victory over the Irish, they demonstrated enough during the match (1727 metres gained and 9 line breaks) to suggest they will be a threat in the business end of the tournament. 

Conversely, the Americans were soundly beaten in both their matches by Fiji and Italy. However, they cannot be accused of giving anything less than 100% in this tournament. Regardless, their final assignment in the tournament does not get any easier, having to play the Kumuls in Port Moresby, in front of their vociferous supporters. With this being the case, the most likely outcome is a PNG victory, thereby sealing top spot in Group C. 

Papua New Guinea by 24.

Ireland vs Wales

Perth Rectangular Stadium, Perth, Australia

Sunday 12 Nov, 15:30 AWST

Another of the rivalry matches happening this round sees Ireland take on Wales. The Irish have been impressive in both their matches, having resoundingly beaten the Italians and giving PNG an almighty scare in Port Moresby. 

The Welsh have been very disappointing in this tournament, having been absolutely destroyed by PNG and Fiji. If the Dragons lose here, it means that they have not won a World Cup match since 2000. With the quarterfinals now out of their reach, the Welsh would love nothing more than to dent the qualification hopes of their near-neighbours. For the Irish, they can still qualify for the knock-out stages.

However, with their points differential being inferior to PNG, the Wolfhounds will need to win by over 36 points and hope the Kumuls lose their match to the USA. As such, although we can’t envision the Irish reaching the quarters at the expense of PNG, one suspects they will be too strong for the Welsh and will, therefore, drive the final nail in the Welsh coffin.

Ireland by 18.

France vs England

Perth Rectangular Stadium, Perth, Australia

Sunday 12 Nov, 18:00 AWST

The last of the group stage matches is to be played by historical rivals France and England. Despite being winless in this World Cup, the French never gave up against the Lebanese and the Australians. It was their lack of NRL experience which proved decisive in both matches. Regardless, in order to progress to the knock-out stages, not only must the French win this match, but they must do so by at least 50 points and hope the Aussies defeat the Lebanese.

For the English, after frustrating the Aussies in their opening match, they were less than impressive in their victory over Lebanon. As such, they will definitely need to improve if they are to seriously challenge the likes of Australia and New Zealand. However, whilst the English are most likely to finish second in Group A and face PNG next week, they are in with a chance of snaring top spot of the group. For that to eventuate, they will need to win by a margin of at least 56 points and hope Australia lose to Lebanon. 

Given the need to win substantially in order to progress, as well as their all-round rivalry with the English, it would not be a surprise to see the French fired up for this and rip into their opponents. However, it’s likely to prove to be a bridge too far, as the English should be too strong here. 

England by 16.

Which game are you most looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below.

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Rob Sebastian

My name is Rob Sebastian. I absolutely love my sports, especially tennis and all forms of football. I love playing them as well, as I play tennis. I am a masters student, as well as a public servant and owner of a cleaning business.

Rugby League World Cup 2017: Week 3 previews

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