Rugby League World Cup Preview and Tips
The 2017 Rugby League World Cup kicks off in Melbourne on Friday night, with the defending champions, Australia looking to start their campaign with a victory over England.
|Australia v England
|Best: England +16 ($1.90) 💰
Value: Morgan to Score A Try & Australia Win ($2.50)
|Papua New Guinea v Wales
|Best: PNG 13+ ($1.50) 💰
Value: 1st Tryscorer – Justin Olam ($8)
|New Zealand v Samoa
|Best: New Zealand 1-12 ($2.90)
Value: 1st Tryscorer & Winner Double – Rapana & NZ ($6) 💰
|Fiji v USA
|Best: Fiji -32.5 ($1.90) 💰
Value: To Score 2+ Tries – Suliasi Vunivalu ($2.50) 💰
|Ireland v Italy
|Best: Italy 1-12 ($3.20)
Value: 1st Tryscorer & Match Winner Double – Cerruto & Italy ($9)
|France v Lebanon
|Best: Lebanon +2 ($1.90) 💰
Value: Lebanon 1-12 ($3.30) 💰
|Scotland v Tonga
|Best: Scotland +29.5 ($1.90)
Value: Jason Taumalolo to score a try ($2.25) 💰
Rugby League World Cup Match Previews
Australia v England
Defending World Cup champions, Australia will kick off their title defence by hosting England in Melbourne on Friday night. Australia has won 11-straight Test matches against England dating back to 1995, including a 28-20 victory at Cardiff in the 2013 World Cup. It will be a different looking Australian line-up to previous seasons, with Michael Morgan replacing Cowboys teammate Johnathan Thurston. Morgan was the form player of the recent NRL Finals Series and won’t look out of place alongside Cooper Cronk in the halves. England have assembled a strong squad led by NRL stars Sam Burgess, James Graham and Gareth Widdop, but it will be their Super League stars that will need to shine if they are to challenge Australia in the competition opener. Castleford’s Luke Gale won the Man of Steel Award this year, while English skipper, Sean O’Loughlin wouldn’t look out of place in the NRL. Raiders duo Josh Hodgson and Elliot Whitehead have both proven themselves in the NRL and give this side plenty of depth. The other advantage England has is master coach Wayne Bennett at the helm. England looks the biggest threat to Australia’s claims to back-to-back World Cup titles and they should be able to stay within 16 points of the Kangaroos.
Best: England +16 ($1.90)
Value: Michael Morgan to Score A Try & Australia Win Match ($2.50)
Papua New Guinea v Wales
PNG are raging $1.11 favourites to win Pool C and it will be a tough start to the World Cup for Wales at the National Football Stadium at Port Moresby in front of a rugby league-mad crowd. PNG has the advantage of not only home crowd support, but a large percentage of their squad play together for the PNG Hunters in the Queensland Cup competition, which the Hunters won this season. Highlighting the strength of the PNG squad is the luxury they have in naming both Kurt Baptiste and James Segeyaro on the bench. Wales defeated PNG 22-8 at the 2000 Rugby League World Cup. PNG defeated Fiji and the Cook Islands in two of their last three matches, while Wales had wins over Serbia and Italy, separated by a draw with Jamaica in their 2016 slate of matches. It’s a tough first-up spot for the Welsh, with The Wolf expecting a comfortable PNG win in front of a packed National Football Stadium.
Best: PNG 13+ ($1.50)
Value: First Tryscorer – Justin Olam ($8)
New Zealand v Samoa
The alarm bells are ringing loud and clear in this match, because if New Zealand aren’t on their game first-up, Samoa will be ready to pounce. New Zealand won 14-12 when these sides last clashed in 2014 and The Wolf is expecting another tight contest in Auckland on Saturday night. Samoa has the pack to match the Kiwis (especially with Jason Taumalolo pledging his allegiance to Tonga), containing wrecking balls like Josh Papalii, Leeson Ah Mau and Junior Paulo in their starting line-up, but the halves pairing of Joseph Paulo and Ben Roberts is where will be outclassed by the Kiwis side led by Shaun Johnson. Samoa had the luxury of Anthony Milford in the No.6 jersey for their last Test match, a 30-10 loss to England in May at Campbelltown Stadium. There will be plenty of passion in this contest, but the Kiwis should get the job done over the 80 minutes. Samoa will also realise that their grand final in Group B will be when they clash against bitter rivals, Tonga. The Wolf says to back New Zealand by a margin of 1-12.
Best: New Zealand 1-12 ($2.90)
Value: 1st Tryscorer & Match Winner Double – Rapana & New Zealand ($6)
Fiji v USA
Fiji have named a strong squad for the 2017 World Cup, with Jarryd Hayne named at five-eighth, while there is plenty of speed in the outside backs – led by Storm flyer Suliasi Vunivalu. Unfortunately it could be a tough night in Townsville for the USA, with their side lacking NRL experience outside of Eddy Pettybourne, Bureta Faraimo and Junior Vaivai. Fiji have been involved in some close battles in recent years against the like of PNG, Samoa and Tonga – that form is good enough for a first-up assignment against the USA, who are making up the numbers here. Fiji to go big here!
Best: Fiji -32.5 ($1.90)
Value: To Score 2+ Tries – Suliasi Vunivalu ($2.50)
Ireland v Italy
The Wolf is tipping Italy ($2.35) to top Pool D ahead of Fiji to progress to the quarter-finals and can’t afford a slip-up against Ireland. Australia’s loss has been Italy’s gain, with Roosters new recruit James Tedesco giving the Azzuri a huge boost by making himself available after his exclusion from the Kangaroos side. The Italian pack will be more than competitive, with Paul Vaughan, Daniel Alvaro, Nathan Brown and Mark Minichiello leading the charge. The Wolf is keen to see how the halves pairing of Terry Campese and Jack Johns performs on the big stage. Johns has the right pedigree as the son of Matthew Johns and nephew of immortal Andrew Johns, while Campese will bring plenty of experience to the side. In saying all of that, the Irish shouldn’t be underestimated. They have plenty of Super League experience in their side, led by skipper Liam Finn, while hooker Michael Mcilorum will be a handful around the ruck for the Italian defenders. Italy has been vocal about making amends for their 16-0 loss to Tonga at the 2013 World Cup and have plenty of NRL stars to guide them to a win here.
Best: Italy 1-12 ($3.20)
Value: 1st Tryscorer & Match Winner Double – Cerruto & Italy ($9)
France v Lebanon
This could be the most crucial clash in Week 1 of the World Cup, with the top three teams in Pool A progressing to the quarter-finals. Most experts are expecting both Australia and New Zealand to progress, leaving the third spot to the winner of this clash in The Wolf’s opinion. France will be led by Theo Fages, who plays for St Helens in the English Super League, while fullback Mark Kheirallah is a solid fullback. Lebanon’s fortunes will rest with former Wests Tigers teammates, Robbie Farah and Mitchell Moses. Farah has made the move into the halves to accommodate Michael Lichaa, while Moses was one of the Eels best in their recent finals campaign. Farah led Lebanon to a 32-16 win over Niue in a warm-up match and is expecting the Rabbitohs hooker to prove the difference here in a close one.
Best: Lebanon +2 ($1.90)
Value: Lebanon 1-12 ($3.30)
Scotland v Tonga
Tonga look the value bet at $3 to win Pool B as it’s a strong possibility that they could knock off New Zealand to top the pool. There’s plenty of excitement around the Tongan side after both Andrew Fifita and Jason Taumalolo excluded themselves from Australia and New Zealand respectively to pledge their allegiance to Tonga. It’s a huge boost for Kristian Woolf’s men against a Scotland side that looks set for a tough first-up match in Cairns. Danny Brough has plenty of experience in the Super League, but this Tongan side looks red hot on paper! Scotland defeated Tonga 26-24 at the 2013 World Cup, but they don’t have the likes of Kane Linnett and Peter Wallace to rely on this time around. The betting in this match will all come down to whether Tonga keep their foot on the pedal to cover the big line. The Wolf thinks Tonga will win, but is happy to play Scotland with the 29.5 start, especially while Tonga still work out their combinations. They are also expecting a max of 32 degrees in Cairns on Sunday, so it could have an impact on both sides, preventing a blow out.
Best: Scotland +29.5 ($1.90)
Value: Jason Taumalolo to score a try ($2.25)