Rugby League World Cup 2013: Predictions and Preview for Weekend Games

Greg Johnson@gregianjohnsonSpecial to Bleacher ReportNovember 8, 2013

LEIGH, GREATER MANCHESTER - NOVEMBER 05: Tonga perform the sipi tau in front of the Cook Island prior to the Rugby League World Cup GroupC/D match between Tonga and Cook Islands at Leigh Sports Village on November 5, 2013 in Leigh, Greater Manchester.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The group stage of the 2013 Rugby League World Cup is now well and truly getting into the business end of the round as it nears completion.

In Group A, England must overcome Fiji in order to finish second behind a hugely impressive Australia side, who are set to demolish Ireland in front of a home crowd in Limerick.

Group C matches up an already knocked-out showdown of pride between Wales and the Cook Islands, who both suffered at the hands of this year's surprise package, the USA.

Finally, Tonga and Italy face a straight shootout for second in Group D due to Scotland's runaway success at the top of the table.

Below are four brief previews with predictions for the weekend's games.



HUDDERSFIELD, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 02: Rangi Chase (C) of England runs at Tyrone McCarthy (L) and Brett White (R) of Ireland during the Rugby League World Cup Group A match between England and Ireland at the John Smith's Stadium on November 2, 2013 in Hudde
Michael Steele/Getty Images

England vs. Fiji: Saturday, November 9, 2:30 p.m. GMT (Group A)

Kevin McNamara looks set to respond to the physical threat of Fiji by bringing in hooker Michael McIlorum and prop James Graham. Sam Burgess and Lee Mossop are also set to feature.

It's fair to say that England have been impressive so far, producing a narrow 28-20 loss against the favourites Australia and a 42-0 thrashing of Ireland.

However, Fiji can boast a similar record from the same fixtures. Their 32-14 win over Ireland and 34-2 loss to Australia are somewhat comparable.

England look to be the most likely team to reach the knockout stages, however, and should prove to be just a bit too much for Fiji.

Prediction: England 28-22 Fiji


ST HELENS, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 02:  Greg Inglis of Australia tackled by Akuila Uate of Fiji during the Rugby League World Cup: Group A match between Australia and Fiji at Langtree Park on November 2, 2013 in St Helens, England.  (Photo by Tony Marshall/Get
Tony Marshall/Getty Images

Australia vs. Ireland: Saturday, November 9, 8 p.m. GMT (Group A)

Ireland will be preparing to batten down the hatches as Australia head to the Emerald Isle to play their final group game in Limerick.

Damage limitation will be the order of the day, especially considering how much Ireland have already suffered at the hands of England and Fiji so far in the competition.

After all, Australia are currently the world's No. 1 Rugby League side, and the Kangaroos will be sure to punish Ireland if and when they make errors on the field.

Home advantage is unlikely to make much of a difference, so expect a huge margin of victory for the Aussies in Limerick.

Prediction: Australia 64-0 Ireland


WREXHAM, WALES - NOVEMBER 03: Lloyd White (L) of Wales  during the Rugby League World Cup Group D match between Wales and USA at the Glyndwr University Racecourse Stadium on November 3, 2013 in Wrexham, Wales.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Michael Steele/Getty Images

Wales vs. Cook Islands: Sunday, November 10, 2 p.m. GMT (Group C/D)

Pride is the only prize available in this dead rubber tie between two teams who were knocked out far earlier than expected.

While the performance of Cook Islands this year has perhaps been the lesser of the two countries' evil attempts at rugby, such faint praise is only possible because expectations were lower for the islanders than they were for the Welsh.

It's fair to say that more was expected of the Dragons, and the team could look to bounce back against their opponents in their fourth and final group game.

Home advantage could play its part, with the match set to take place in Neath.

Prediction: Wales 24-14 Cook Islands


WORKINGTON ENGLAND - OCTOBER 3 : Luke Douglas of Scotland and Anthony Minichiello of Italy clash during the Rugby League World Cup Group C match between Scotland and Italy at Derwent Park on November 3, 2013 in Workington, England.(Photo by Mark Runnacles
Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Tonga vs. Italy: Sunday, November 10, 4 p.m. GMT (Group C/D)

Tonga still have a mathematical chance of stealing second place in Group C from Italy, but the Azzuri will be more than ready to fight for their position and defend their slender one-point lead at the top.

Italy have been impressive, using their shock win over England before the tournament to imbue them with confidence, which has so far produced a 30-30 draw with Scotland and a 25-16 win against Wales.

Like so many of their Pacific island rivals, Tonga will prove to be another tough and powerful test but one that the Italians should be able to pass.

Prediction: Tonga 24-26 Italy