World Cup Round 3: Five things to look forward to

Suliasi Vunivalu (Image credit - RLWC.com / NRL Imagery)

All 14 nations will play their final game of the group stage this weekend so we have an exciting couple of days of Rugby League ahead.

Fiji take on Italy in the first Round 3 game on Friday at the Canberra Stadium, 08:40am kick-off.

TAUMALOLO COMING UP AGAINST NEW ZEALAND

Prior to the 2017 Rugby League World Cup kicking off, a lot of people were talking about how New Zealand would fair at the tournament because quite a few of their players had switched allegiance to play for Tier 2 nations like Tonga, Samoa and Fiji. And the stand-out name who switched was Jason Taumalolo, who is representing Tonga this year.

The 24-year-old is, arguably, the best forward in the world and is very highly regarded by his club North Queensland Cowboys, with the NRL giants offering him a 10-year deal earlier on in the season. But the thing to look forward to would be whether the Kiwis will let Taumalolo know their thoughts on his switch physically? Will the Kiwis target Taumalolo? Will Taumalolo get the better of New Zealand? It is going to be a very interesting game.

CAN SCOTLAND MAKE THE QUARTER-FINALS?

Group B is the one to watch this weekend, with New Zealand and Tonga being the first game on Saturday while Samoa and Scotland are the following game in Cairns on Saturday. Samoa and the Bravehearts have not won a game in Group B yet, with them both having lost to the Kiwis and Tongans and the winner will seal a place in the quarter-finals.

The three teams who finish in the top three of Group A and B will progress to the semi-finals. Despite having conceded 124 points and only scoring 10 points in their first two games, Steve McCormack’s side have a fantastic opportunity to defy the odds in the ‘group of death’ and make the last eight but it will not be easy against a Samoa side whose forward pack weighs over half a ton.

PAPUA NEW GUINEA TURNING ON THE HEAT

In many respects, Papua New Guinea have been the talk of the tournament so far due to the fantastic atmosphere in Port Moresby. Rugby League is absolutely huge in the country and the nation have really welcomed the World Cup this year and sold-out the 14,000-capacity National Football Stadium in their first two games against Wales and Ireland.

But it hasn’t just been the off-field action that has been grabbing the headlines though. The Kumuls have performed to an impressive level and thrashed Wales in the opening game as well as edging past a strong Ireland side last week. They host the USA on Sunday and the Hawks have had in tough in the tournament so far and some people are even talking about whether or not Papua New Guinea could rack up over a point per minute. Make sure you tune in to Premier Sports on Sunday at 5am to witness the spectacle!

THE JOY TO WATCH FIJI SIDE

Tonga have attracted a lot of attention in this World Cup due to them having such a good squad on paper and then the team putting that into action with two wins from two games in the group games but Fiji have gone under the radar in many respects. And if anything, Fiji should be talked about in the same regard as Tonga because they look really good. They face Italy on Friday which will be a game jam-packed with NRL stars from both sides.

The Bati have beaten USA and Wales 58-12 and 72-6 respectively so far in the tournament and are one of the most exciting teams in the tournament to watch because they are not afraid to throw the ball around and try different things. They have the most prolific try-scorer in the competition in winger Suliasi Vunivalu but they have got some more impressive backs such as Jarryd Hayne, Akuila Uate, Taane Milne and Kevin Naiqama.

HOW WILL THE CHANGED ENGLAND TEAM GET ON?

England take on France in the final game of the weekend on Sunday, 10am kick-off. Three Lions boss Wayne Bennett has made four changes to his side that will play in Perth as he wanted to give all his 24-man squad a game in the tournament. Mark Percival, Kevin Brown, Mike McMeeken and Scott Taylor have all come into the starting 17-man side.

Gareth Widdop will play at full-back while Stefan Ratchford will start on the wing, with Percival as his centre. If England win then they definitely secure second place while they could go top if they get a high points difference. It is clear that Bennett is willing to try new combinations this weekend as the Three Lions prepare for the quarter-finals next weekend. It will be interesting to see how the likes of George Williams gets on when coming off the bench again or how Widdop and Brown play.

Who are you tipping in the Round 3 games this weekend? Let us know in the comments below.

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