World Cup Quarter-Finals: Five things to look forward to

(Image credit - englandrl.co.uk)

We are in the knockout stages of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup as the quarter-finals take place this weekend.

Australia take on Samoa in the first quarter-final tie at the Darwin Stadium on Friday, 09:30am kick-off.

AUSTRALIA BRINGING BACK THE BIG GUNS

Kangaroos head coach Mal Meninga rested a number of their star players last week for the game against Lebanon and it was a decent choice in the end as they won 34-0. Michael Morgan comes back into the side as well as Billy slater and Josh Dugan, among a couple of more.

Australia are the team to beat, there is no doubt about it. They have been very clinical in their last eight Rugby League World Cup games, scoring a staggering 348 points and conceding just 14. You read that right. A staggering stat. It will be a huge task for Samoa to challenge Australia but the likes of Dugan and Slater are a joy to watch.

TONGA CONTINUING TO MAKE HISTORY

Last week, Tonga made Rugby League history as they became the first ever Tier Two nation to beat a Tier One nation. They put in an incredible second half display as they came from 16-2 at half-time to run-out 28-22 winners in Hamilton.

They will look to continue making history this weekend as they aim to reach the semi-finals of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup. They face Lebanon at the Christchurch Stadium on Saturday and clear favourites for the game but the Cedars have put in three good performances against France, England and Australia so far.

FIJI UP FOR SHOCKING NEW ZEALAND

New Zealand will be disappointed after losing to Tonga last week, especially after being 16-2 ahead at the break. The Kiwis will have suffered for a couple of days following the defeat but they will be even more determined to put on a good show for their fans on Saturday as they face a very, very good Fiji outfit.

The Bati have scored the most points in the tournament so far with 168 while New Zealand are in second with 134 points to their name. Suliasi Vunivalu has been scoring tries for fun, crossing for eight tries in just three games. Fiji finished the group stage with three wins from three and will certainly fancy their chances against the Kiwis, who all the pressure will be on. It has all of the ingredients to be a belter.

ENGLAND’S NEW LOOK TEAM

England head coach Wayne Bennett made a number of changes to his side that beat France last week and he has stuck with it again this weekend. A lot, and we mean A LOT, of people had mixed views on Kevin Brown starting at stand-off alongside Luke Gale, with Gareth Widdop starting at full-back.

Without trying to disrespect France, there will be far superior opposition that the Three Lions will come up against in the tournament, starting with the highly-hyped Papua New Guinea on Sunday. But Brown had a fantastic game last week and he organised everything which allowed Gale to play more freely. Widdop was loverugbyleague.com’s man of the match and made some really good runs from the back so it will be interesting to see how the spine of the Three Lions get on against the Kumuls. 

CAN PAPUA NEW GUINEA PERFORM AWAY FROM HOME?

We all know how good Papua New Guinea are when playing in their own country, none more so than when they play at the National Football Stadium in Port Moresby. They have Justin Olam on the wing, who has scored three tries so far in the tournament while Garry Lo on the other wing is an explosive carrier of the ball.

The Kumuls have won three out of three games so far, but they have all been at home. And with playing games at home, they will be familiar with the intense heat compared to the likes of Wales and Ireland while they have 14,800 fans behind them. They play England in the quarter-final at the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium on Sunday so can they prove that they are the real deal and perform away from home? It is going to be great game against a confident Three Lions outfit.

Who are you tipping in the quarter-finals this weekend? Let us know in the comments below.

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