We have reached the all-important semi-final stage of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup and there are two very, very exciting games ahead.
Australia take on Fiji in the first semi-final at the Brisbane Stadium on Friday, 9am kick-off.
And England come up against Tonga in the other semi-final at the Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland on Saturday, 5am kick-off.
AUSTRALIA’S PHENOMINAL BACKLINE
Everyone knows by now that Australia are favourites to left the Rugby League World Cup trophy in Brisbane next weekend. And you can’t really dispute them being favourites due to their performances in the tournament, winning four out of four games so far.
They have a lot of talent throughout the pack but their backline is sensational. It’s so good. Valentine Holmes became the first play to ever score five tries in a World Cup last weekend but the Kangaroos haven’t just got them, they also have Billy Slater at full-back, Dane Gagai on the other wing and Will Chambers and Josh Dugan in the centres. How good is that? They have been a delight to watch so far and Fiji will have to do something special to limit them.
THE UNDERRATED FIJI SIDE
Alongside Tonga, Fiji have been one of the surprise packages of the tournament so far and the rise of the Pacific Islands in this World Cup has been nothing short of sensational. Due to the bigger-named stars switching allegiance to Tonga, Fiji have not been talked about as much but have been just as good on the field. They are nearly as good as their beautiful hymn signing!
They have, arguably, the best winger in the world in Suliasi Vunivalu but have a world class pack. The majority of players in Mick Potter’s side were born in Fiji and it’s absolutely brilliant to see their passion. A lot of people are expecting the Kangaroos to win but the Bati shouldn’t be written off just yet. They’ve scored more points than anyone in the World Cup.
THE RED SEA OF TONGA FANS
The support that Tonga received in Christchurch last weekend for their quarter-final clash with Lebanon was absolutely fantastic to see. It also proved why there should be more international Rugby League – the support is definitely there, we just need to capitalise on the opportunity to play more games yearly.
There is a huge Tongan population in Auckland, where their semi-final is hosted against England on Saturday and there is expected to be a huge sea of red Tongan flags around the stadium. Fair play to the England fans who have gone over too, there looks to be a good number. British press who are currently in Auckland, described Tonga’s reception earlier in the week as a ‘rockstar’s welcome’. We are in for a treat on Saturday.
ENGLAND’S RIGHT SIDE
The form of winger Jermaine McGillvary and his centre Kallum Watkins in this World Cup has been incredible. Huddersfield Giants star McGillvary has caught the attention of NRL clubs and there is no wonder why because not only has he scored six tries in four games, but he does the hard work as well and was the top metre-maker last week.
Leeds Rhinos ace Watkins was voted as loverugbyleague.com’s man of the match in England’s win over Papua New Guinea in the quarter-final last week. He has been one of the main reasons why McGillvary has been such a stand-out. Watkins is powerful going forward, explosively uses his pace but is unselfish as well. He has made a staggering 463 metres in three games. Let’s hope they do more damage this weekend.
THE BATTLE OF THE NUMBER 13 JERSEY
England and Tonga will be a tasty battle on Saturday but there is another individual battle than is a clear stand-out. England captain Sean O’Loughlin will come up against Tonga’s No. 13 in Jason Taumalolo.
Wigan Warriors star O’Loughlin has been one of the best players in Super League for a number of years now and NRL stars such as Jarryd Hayne and Isaac Luke have recently tweeted that they would like to see the Three Lions loose forward in the NRL. Good news for Wigan fans is that he has signed a new deal at the club and will not be going to Australia but he is certainly capable of going over there and being one of the best players in that league, too. A brilliant leader to have in the team.
Taumalolo is regarded as one of the best forwards in the world at the minute and rightly so, because he has been on another level for the Mate Ma’a in this World Cup. He literally makes everything look easy. He has made 757 metres in four games, how is that even possible? It sure is going to be a spicy clash between the pair.
What else are you looking forward to in the World Cup this weekend? Let us know in the comments below.