This week's Rugby League World Cup fixtures promise to decide just who among the sport's hierarchy will make it to the latter stages of the 2013 tournament.
With Australia, New Zealand and co-hosts England all vying for a spot in the quarter-finals, there's also room for a couple of underdogs to emerge from Groups C and D, although it still remains up for debate as to who those two might be.
With another week of pool encounters on our hands—some looking close, others not so much—here we've predicted the outcomes of each encounter before the quarter-final stage, a few of which stand above the rest in terms of promise.
|Monday, Nov. 4||Papua New Guinea vs. Samoa||MS3 Craven Park, Hull||8 p.m. GMT/3 p.m. ET||8-32|
|Tuesday, Nov. 5||Tonga vs. Cook Islands||Leigh Sports Village, Leigh||8 p.m. GMT/3 p.m. ET||28-16|
|Thursday, Nov. 7||Scotland vs. United States||Salford City Stadium, Salford||8 p.m. GMT/3 p.m. ET||32-22|
|Friday, Nov. 8||New Zealand vs. Papua New Guinea||Headingley Carnegie Stadium, Leeds||8 p.m. GMT/3 p.m. ET||40-8|
|Saturday, Nov. 9||England vs. Fiji||KC Stadium, Hull||2:30 p.m. GMT/9.30 a.m. ET||38-9|
|Saturday, Nov. 9||Australia vs. Ireland||Thomond Park, Munster||8 p.m. GMT/3 p.m. ET||36-4|
|Sunday, Nov. 10||Wales vs. Cook Islands||The Knoll, Neath||2 p.m. GMT/9 a.m. ET||28-22|
|Sunday, Nov. 10||Tonga vs. Italy||Shay Stadium, Halifax||4 p.m. GMT/11 a.m. ET||14-12|
|Monday, Nov. 11||France vs. Samoa||Stade Gilbert Brutus, Perpignan||9p.m. local time/8 p.m. GMT/3 p.m. ET||14-18|
Scotland vs. United States
Date: Thursday, Nov. 7
The third and final inter-group meeting of this year's World Cup holds a lot for Scotland and the United States, both of whom triumphed in their opening encounters of the competition.
The Scots' two-point win over Tonga last week was an impressive feat of will and determination as far as Steve McCormack will be concerned, while the USA's beating of the Cook Islands also exercised their ability to compete on the international front.
Thursday's meeting between these two sides will go a long way to deciding who comes out on top of Groups C and D, respectively, making it a heavyweight battle between two of the tournament's minnows.
Prediction: Scotland 32-22 United States
England vs. Fiji
Date: Saturday, Nov. 9
Who will win this fixture?
England's win over Ireland means that Steve McNamara's side are now, as expected, back in the running to make it to the quarter-finals of the competition, with Fiji the only obstacle remaining.
Although the Fijians' offensive worth was shown in their 32-14 mauling of the Irish, they managed to put just two points past Australia over the weekend.
If the co-hosts can get off the mark quickly at the KC Stadium, Fiji will have no choice but to pursue their running game against England, which will ultimately prove fruitless against Kevin Sinfield's men, who are more than capable of posing a stubborn defence.
Prediction: England 38-9 Fiji
France vs. Samoa
Date: Monday, Nov. 11
Last but by no means least in the group-stage fixture list of this year's Rugby League World Cup comes the Group B encounter between France and Samoa next week.
In Perpignan, the hosts will be able to rely on a thriving home advantage against a Samoan side that managed to put 24 points past New Zealand in their opening fixture.
In their first two matches, the French have managed to score just nine points and so will need a substantial boost in attack if they're to progress to the quarter-finals, Samoa being superior in both tries scored and points difference.
Prediction: France 14-18 Samoa