We may have barely stepped out of the group stage, but that won't stop spectators and pundits alike from looking forward to the later stages of this year's Rugby League World Cup.
With just one quarterfinalist left to be decided for this weekend's fixtures, we can now start to formulate an idea of who will be making it to the penultimate stage of the competition.
Over the last fortnight, we've seen some sides live up to their billing, while others have fallen short of expectations.
In any case, the appearances of Australia, New Zealand and England will come as no surprise for the quarters, but just who among those rugby league giants can we expect to make it all the way?
|Semi-Final 1||Semi-Final 2||Final|
|New Zealand 28-24 England||Australia 36-12 Samoa||New Zealand 28-38 Australia|
Semi-Final 1: New Zealand vs. England
New Zealand's quarter-final looks like a favourable one after the reigning champions sealed the top spot in Group B. They are set to face the winner of Group C—Scotland—in Leeds on Friday.
In a replay of their 2008 Rugby League World Cup semi, the Southern Hemisphere titleholders will once again face England at the penultimate stage, and the co-hosts can feel buoyant about their chances at making the final.
In the end, a lot will depend on a select few players coming up with the goods in the end. Sam Tomkins in particular will have a lot of responsibility before seeing some of this weekend's opponents when he moves to the NRL for the coming season.
Prediction: New Zealand 28-24 England
Semi-Final 2: Australia vs. Samoa
In 2000, Australia bested Samoa in the quarter-final of that year's Rugby World Cup final by a massive 56-point margin, but the Pacific Islanders have come a long way since then and will be a tough test of the Kangaroos' mettle in a fortnight.
The Samoans should have the defensive tact necessary to move past Fiji in their last-eight encounter this weekend, while Australia's matchup against the United States promises to go in Tim Sheens' favour.
In recent weeks, Australia have looked relentless as they attempt to prise the World Cup title from New Zealand. It's nearly impossible to pick out a weak area in what is a well-balanced team.
Prediction: Australia 36-12 Samoa
Final: New Zealand vs. Australia
Will Australia and New Zealand replicate the 2008 Rugby League World Cup final?
With NRL talent thriving once more, it's an all-Australasian encounter that's set to end the Rugby League World Cup proceedings.
Permitting both teams have a fully fit squad heading into the Old Trafford final, the Kiwis arguably boast the finer attacking individuals, but Sheens' finely tuned Kangaroos showed against England that they can ride out an offensive threat.
New Zealand displayed their susceptibility to concede against a physically powerful Samoa side, but they will encounter an altogether more tightly knit technical threat when they face Australia.
Prediction: New Zealand 28-38 Australia