Australia vs. England: Prediction and Preview for Rugby League World Cup Opener
One could hardly hope for a more entertaining way to open this year’s Rugby League World Cup than with the tournament’s hosts threatening a team hotly picked to win the whole thing.
Australia were always going to feature among those looking to challenge for the silverware on their return to British shores, but need to make a statement against one of their biggest obstacles.
Who will triumph in Cardiff this weekend?
England’s loss to Italy last weekend will have dampened the home side’s spirits, admittedly, but by no means are Steve McNamara’s side to be written off.
Playing host to a salivating sample of the world’s best league talents, there promises to be fireworks and more at the Millennium Stadium this weekend when two of the sport’s giants clash.
Date: Saturday, October 26
Time: 2:30 p.m. Local Time (BST), 9:30 a.m. (ET)
Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Players to Watch
The staple of Queensland’s eight-year State of Origin winning streak and the only player to have appeared in all 24 games inclusive, Thurston is set to play a massive part in the Kangaroos’ opening fixture.
Easily one of the NRL’s premier stars, Thurston comes to Wales on Saturday as the potential key to unlocking England’s back line, either with ball in hand or from the boot as he so often favours.
As Rugby League 24/7 reports, the player could well achieve something massive for Australia this autumn:
Johnathan Thurston needs 62 points to be the highest point scorer in the World Cup— Rugby League 24/7 (@NRLNewsGuy) October 24, 2013
The last time the North Queensland Cowboy came up against Kevin Sinfield and his men was in the final of the 2011 Four Nations, a match in which Thurston scored as he led his side to victory.
Lining up at stand-off, the Australian veteran will also have a hefty bulk of the defensive duty, but is more than capable of again preventing England from piercing his line.
Having recently agreed a move to the New Zealand Warriors, this will be Sam Tomkins’ first official outing for his national team as anything but a Super League player.
The 2012 Man of Steel starts from the bench this Saturday but will more than likely provide a breath of fresh air when he is introduced, preying on the weary legs of his opponents.
Tomkins’ 2013 season may not have been as prolific as the one that preceded it, but the former Wigan star still showed his knack for pitching in with a score when it mattered, not least of which was in this year’s Challenge Cup final.
The fullback will need to perform that same duty on the international stage for the coming month, beginning Saturday.
The warm-up loss to Italy last weekend may not have meant anything, but morale can’t be sky-high right now for an England team yet to show its full potential.
Admittedly the host's squad has the ability within it to win the World Cup but, with controversy shrouding some aspects of the team—per BBC Sport—things are running more in Australia’s favour.
Not only have the Southern Hemisphere visitors got a team just as, if not more, talented than England’s, there’s a certain sense of cohesion among the Australians, who will go about their attempts to strip New Zealand of the title with a win in the Welsh capital.
Prediction: Australia 32-20 England
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