Rugby League World Cup Final 2017 Preview
The Rugby League World Cup comes to a conclusion on Saturday December 2nd as England line up against Australia in the final. The showpiece event takes place at 04:30am GMT in Brisbane and unsurprisingly, the hosts are odds-on favourites for the match.
The best price available on the Aussies to wrap up yet more silverware on their own patch is 1/7 which is available with Betvictor at the time of writing. Even the most optimistic England fans will take some persuading to back England at around 7/1 although anything can happen in sport…
The differing nature of their respective Semi-Final successes makes this an interesting prospect which will hopefully not be as one-sided as the betting is currently suggesting. Australia made extremely light work of Fiji winning 54-6 as they cruised their way into their 4th World Cup final. Fiji has previously seen off New Zealand and did take the lead but the turnaround didn’t take long to materialise and the Aussies were soon into their usual destructive rhythm.
England were involved in a far more competitive, edgy, nervy affair as they triumphed 20-18 over Tonga. Those travelling English fans were left biting their nails and praying for the final whistle as Tonga staged an impressive fight back but Wayne Bennett’s side did just enough to stave off any late drama. A late Andrew Fifita try was controversially ruled out after an alleged knock-on was spotted and there was a collective sigh of relief on the English bench and brows were heavily wiped. With a little help from the officials, they did just about enough to book their place in their first final since 1995 but will need to improve significantly to prevent the hosts from lifting the trophy once again.
Jermaine McGillvary, Gareth Widdop and John Bateman all scored early tries for England although hooker Josh Hodgson limped off after 23 minutes and he will miss the final as a result. He’s sustained an anterior cruciate ligament injury and Bennett will be required to shuffle his pack prior to this tie which is far from ideal. He’s started four of their five games in this tournament so far and will be missed against the holders. James Roby is likely to be the man to replace him and he is confident he can step up in this pressure match.
Sean O’Loughlin also picked up an injury but could shake it off in time for the final. He will face a late fitness test but the England camp are yet to comment on his status. Even Wayne Bennett admitted his side are rank outsiders for this tie and responded with ‘probably not’ when quizzed about whether his side had enough to overcome the all-conquering Kangaroos. He conceded his side have a lot of work to do ahead of this tie but they have a week to prepare and meticulous planning could the key. Bet365 have priced England up at 11/10 on the +18 handicap and this would have landed in three of their last four meetings with this opposition across all competitions including earlier in the tournament.
Australia were utterly dominant during their previous World Cup final running out 34-2 winners over near-neighbours New Zealand and another whitewash is not out of the question. The 10/11 for -18 on Australia is likely to be far more popular and there has already been plenty of money coming in for the Kangaroos. Bennett was quick to praise his defence following the game and they will be key once again. It is going to need a gargantuan effort from every single player on the pitch if they are to turn the tables on the Aussies.
Bennett, who coaches in the NRL knows all about the opposition but possessing knowledge and the ability to stop them are two very different things. Tongan head coach Kristian Wolff admitted the draining nature of the dramatic 80 minutes will have taken plenty out of England and they could struggle to pick themselves up in time for the final but conceded that they ‘could trouble Australia’ and ‘make it a real contest’.
Valentine Holmes is the man to watch for Australia and has been priced up as 5/1 joint favourite by Betfred to score the opening try following his unforgettable display against Fiji. He managed a haul of six tries in a virtuoso performance which saw his growing reputation receive yet another boost and England can’t afford to give him too much space in Brisbane. He is playing just his fifth World Cup game and has sent the records tumbling with his 12 tries in the tournament so far. He was joined on the scoresheet by veteran Billy Slater and Dane Gagai.
Australia have not only excelled in the final third, they’ve also been defensively solid although the scrappy and avoidable nature of Suliasi Vunivalu’s 60th minute try will have irked head coach Mal Meninga and his staff. It was the only blot of Australia’s otherwise pristine copybook. These sides met at the beginning of the group stage as both teams were still finding their feet in the tournament and unsurprisingly Australia ran out 18-4 winners despite England getting off to a bright start in the match.
The margin of victory and nature of that performance suggests this contest could be a lot closer than the bookmakers are suggesting but England must ensure they keep both their discipline and concentration throughout. If either of those aspects drop throughout the 80 minutes, they are extremely likely to be punished by a confident and in-form Australian team.
It looks set to be yet another mouth-watering battle and although many England fans will be cheering on their side, those who remain at home will be hoping their side can make it worth the early start. Australia are looking to continue their dominance in this competition and they are helped by having the home advantage here. They also possess the in-form Valentine Holmes who will be looking to add to his 12 try haul with yet more wizardry. England are not without a chance but it won’t be easy for Bennett’s men.