Australia vs England
The mother of all rivalries at this tournament. It seems rather fitting that one of the three host nations in Australia should open the tournament with a match against their greatest rival and the mother country in England. Despite missing two of their best players in Johnathan Thurston, Matt Scott and Greg Inglis, as well as
the omission of the long-serving Sam Thaiday and Andrew Fifita’s defection to Tonga, Australia still possess a rather formidable squad. England also possesses a strong line-up, led by Sam Burgess, James Graham, Chris Heighington, Sean O’Loughlin, Gareth Widdop and Ryan Hall.
In a match that is sure to add to the already strong rivalry between the two nations, England will definitely rip into the Aussies. However, Australia’s class should see them through.
New Zealand vs Tonga
There is an abundance of hype surrounding this final Group B match, especially given the defections of some of New Zealand’s players to Tonga. The highest profile of these defections is that of Jason Taumalolo. As such, it can be said
that the balance of power has shifted significantly, to the extent that the Kiwis possess their most under-strength line-up in years, while the Mate Ma’a possess their most formidable squad yet.
Moreover, this match is sure to
be filled with an abundance of emotion, due to the defections. The Kiwis may have a weakened squad, but there is still plenty of class in their team, however, this is Tonga’s best chance to cause a boilover, despite the home ground advantage to New Zealand.
Tonga vs Samoa
With the already existing rivalry between these two nations, especially in sport, the group match between Tonga and Samoa is sure to be full of fireworks. Whilst Tonga, led by Taumalolo, Fifita, Sika Manu, Michael Jennings and Manu Vatuvei, possess a very formidable line-up, Samoa are no pushovers themselves. Their line-up is led by Frank Pritchard, Tim Lafai, Joseph Leilua, Ricky Leutele, Peter Mata’utia, Josh Papalii, Sam Tagataese, Frank Winterstein and Matthew Wright.
As such, although both teams are likely to progress to the knock-out stages, you can be sure to expect both teams to rough each other up in the process. Moreover, they are sure to scrap for one of the top 2 places of the group.
England vs France
Another match in which the two nations have a very historic rivalry in every aspect, as well as sport. The relations between the English and the French have been ranging between vitriolic and friendly. Whilst the English should be too strong in this match, the French are definitely no easy-beats, given the abundance of Super League experience in their ranks. Moreover, the French club team, known as the Les Catalans Dragons, ply their trade in the English super league.
Regardless of the strength of the English team, you can be sure the French will not be taking a backward step, especially given the English are their opponents. They consistently aim up when encountering the English in any sport. Likewise, the English will be eager to assert their authority and superiority over one of their historic rivals.
Wales vs Ireland
Although this rivalry can be considered chalk and cheese compared to the other rivalries on this list (the rivalry is considerably stronger in rugby union), there is sure to be an abundance of emotion on display, especially with both nations being based in the British Isles (or Isles from an Irish perspective). Wales’ most recent World Cup campaign was dismal, having finished that tournament winless despite their matches being on home soil. You can be sure they will be raring to unleash on one of their nearest neighbours.
Although they are not among the Tier 1 nations and are certainly up against it when they encounter PNG in Port Moresby, they are still ranked higher than PNG, according to the current RLIF World Rankings. PNG may be expected to top their group, however, the game is not played on paper. As such both teams will consider themselves a slight chance of snaring top spot in group C. With the top spot the only spot in that group to ensure progression into the knock-out stages, both teams will certainly aim up against each other to give themselves a chance of progression, while denting the chances of the other.
Which rivalry game are you most excited to watch? Let us know in the comments below.
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