Rugby League World Cup: Quarter-Finals Preview

The Rugby League World Cup reaches its quarter-final stage this coming weekend, with Australia still hot favourites to claim the Paul Barrière Trophy.

Things are certainly heating up in Australasia with New Zealand's shock defeat to Tonga having a major effect on the quarter-final match-ups. The Kiwis' third-round home defeat has secured them a date with the unpredictable Fijians.

Co-hosts, Australia, in an extreme touch of irony, have had their chances of making the final drastically improved as they will take on the Samoans next weekend. The Islanders have been far from their best at the tournament and look the weakest of the Pacific Nations.

The other two semis will see England take on Papua New Guinea and Tonga tackle Lebanon.

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Australia v Samoa | Friday 17 November | Darwin Stadium | 10:30 (SAST)

To Win (80 Mins)
Australia 1/100 | Draw 33/1 | Samoa 15/1
Australia (-31.5) 9/10 | Samoa (+31.5) 9/10 *Please note that these are forecast odds

First up it's the hosts taking on the Samoans out in Darwin. The Kangaroos continued their flawless campaign, registering a 34-0 win over a spirited Lebanon side last Saturday. Mel Menninga's men are yet to concede more than six points in the game after beating England 18-4 in their opener, running out 52-6 victors in their second round tie with the Samoans, and then keeping Lebanon scoreless this past weekend.

Samoa hasn't been as all-conquering as their opponents. The men from the Pacific failed to win any of their round-robin games going down 38-8 to the New Zealanders in their opener, losing 18-32 to Tonga in the next round and then only managing a draw against the 'Scots. This is certainly not the form you want to carry into a game against the world's number one ranked league side in their own backyard.

Verdict: Australia (-31.5) 9/10 *Please note that this is a forecast handicap
It's a big margin but I can see the hosts clearing the handicap. The Samoans have shipped a lot of points thus far while the Aussies have been miserly on defence. 

Tonga v Lebanon | Saturday 18 November | Christchurch Stadium | 06:00 (SAST)

To Win (80 Mins)
Tonga 1/100 | Draw 30/1 | Lebanon 13/1
Tonga (-26.5) 9/10| Lebanon (+26.5) 9/10 *Please note that this is a forecast handicap

The tournament darkhorse, Tonga, will take on a plucky Lebanon outfit in Saturday's opening fixture. The Tongans have enjoyed a stellar campaign thus far with their pinnacle seeing them beat fierce rivals New Zealand 22-28. And while the Lebanese have been a spirited bunch, there is a big gulf in class here.

The men from the Middle East enjoyed a solid if not spectacular round-robin phase campaign losing to both England and Argentina and registering a win over the French. They were a solid punt for plus punters, as they managed to stay competitive during most of the 240 minutes of their pool matches.

Verdict: Lebanon (+26.5) 9/10 *Please note that this is a forecast handicap
Tonga are yet to produce for the entire 80-minutes. The Islanders tend to take the foot off the pedal when they have the game in the bag and this is why I think a strike on the Lebanon plus is a shrewd move.

New Zealand v Fiji | Saturday 18 November | Wellington Regional Stadium | 08:00 (SAST)

To Win (80 Mins)
New Zealand 2/13 | Draw 25/1 | Fiji 17/4
New Zealand (-14.5) 9/10| Fiji (+14.5) 9/10 *Please note that this is a forecast handicap

Verdict: Fiji (+14.5) 9/10 *Please note that this is a forecast handicap
This is a rather big handicap considering the form the Fijians are in. They have swatted aside everything that's been thrown at them thus far and I can see them giving the Kiwis a real scare here. I'll be having a strike on the plus line this weekend.

England v Papua New Guinea | Sunday 19 November | Melbourne Rectangular Stadium | 07:00 (SAST)

To Win (80 Mins)
England 2/13 | Draw 25/1 | Papua New Guinea 17/4
England (-14.5) 9/10 | Papua New Guinea (+14.5) 9/10 *Please note that this is a forecast handicap

The last semi-final contest will see England take on Papua New Guinea out in Melbourne. The Europeans are hot favourites to win this one but they'll need to bring their A-game as their opponents are more than capable of putting the Englishmen under pressure.

The English went two from three during the round-robin phase with their first defeat coming against the Australians during the opening set of fixtures. Wayne Bennet's men bounced back nicely from defeat, beating Lebanon by 19 points and then France by 36 points. Papua New Guinea also enjoyed a solid pool phase campaign beating Wales 50-6, Ireland 14-6, and the USA 64-0.

Verdict: Papua New Guinea (+14.5) 9/10 *Please note that this is a forecast handicap
While I can see England advancing here, I don't think it will be a comfortable win for them as Papua New Guinea are a side that lays down for no one. Hence, a strike on the Papua New Guinea plus is my call for this one. 

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Written by Darry Worthington for

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