Rugby League World Cup 2013: Predicting Tournament Semi-Finals and Final

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistNovember 11, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 24:  Trent Waterhouse of Australia is hauled down by the New Zealand defence during the Gillette Four Nations Rugby League match between Australia and New Zealand at The Twickenham Stoop on October 24, 2009 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

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?

Predicted 2013 Rugby League World Cup Final Results
Semi-Final 1Semi-Final 2Final
New Zealand 28-24 EnglandAustralia 36-12 SamoaNew 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.

It's likely that the Kiwis attack, which has so far scored an incredible total of 26 tries in this tournament, will prove all too strong for a Scottish defence that Italy and Tonga were able to penetrate.

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.

However, if Australia have the assets necessary to pierce the defence of Steve McNamara's side, then one would think New Zealand can repeat the accomplishment.

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.

HULL, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 04:  Leeson Ah Mau (R) of Samoa fends off the challenge of Enoch Maki (L) of Papua New Guinea during the Rugby League World Cup Group B match between Papua New Guinea and Samoa at Craven Park Stadium on November 4, 2013 in Hull, E
Michael Steele/Getty Images

Aussie stars Greg Inglis and Johnathan Thurston were rested for the last group stage meeting against Ireland, and even a team with some second-string players was able to overcome the challenge 50-0.

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

These two nations stand above the rest as being the best in the world right now, so it's only suitable that New Zealand and Australia will make it to the final on this year's Rugby League World Cup based on form.

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