Once again, the world's finest have been whittled down to the two most prominent nations in the sport, with New Zealand and Australia set to stage a repeat of 2008's Rugby League World Cup final at Old Trafford on Saturday.
New Zealand staged a surprise in stripping the Kangaroos of their world title five years ago, but Tim Sheens' men are likely to be a lot more aware of the challenge this time around.
Saturday's final brings together the two sides many had tipped to make it this far in the tournament, but predicting the outcome of New Zealand vs. Australia is far more difficult as we prepare for a show-stopping finale.
|Prediction 1||Prediction 2||Prediction 3|
|Jarryd Hayne Scores Two Tries in 80 Minutes||Australia Enjoy 60 Percent Possession||Final Score: Australia 28-20 New Zealand|
Jarryd Hayne Finishes In Double Digits
As things stand, Jarryd Hayne is the top try scorer in this year's Rugby League World Cup, having already crossed the whitewash nine times in his four matches thus far, averaging more than two scores per game.
Although the utility back wasn't a part of Sheens' lineup for the tournament opener against England, Hayne has since grabbed a hold of his opportunity with both hands, capitalising astutely on his chance.
Since then, the 25-year-old has started every game for Australia, scoring seven tries in his last two fixtures—four against the United States and another hat-trick in the 64-0 demolition of Fiji.
England found a lot of their luck came through the central channels over the weekend with the likes of Sam Burgess and Kallum Watkins getting on the ends of chances created right through the middle.
Depending on where Hayne lines up, the fullback-cum-centre-cum-winger will find that his 10th try and perhaps more come against the Kiwis.
Prediction: Hayne to score two tries in 80 minutes.
New Zealand Struggle to Get a Grip
As devastating as Australia can be when hitting their opponents with fast, fast-paced rugby, it's the possession, or lack thereof, that can often prove to be the undoing of their opponents.
Who will win the Old Trafford final?
As much as anything else, the Kangaroos are experts in slow buildup play, confident enough to tuck the ball under for long stretches and frustrate their enemies for long bouts of time without so much as a sniff of the ball.
New Zealand have grown as a rugby league power in recent years, but they still can't match their Australasia cousins when it comes to possession and confidence for longer spells.
Prediction: Australia enjoy 60 percent of possession.
Australia Reclaim Their World Title
After making their 13th consecutive Rugby League World Cup final, Australia will make up for the wrongs of 2008 and take back the title that was so mercilessly ripped from their grasp in Brisbane five years ago.
Sheens' outfit have been nothing short of dominant over the last four weeks and the difference in which the two teams overcame England in their respective encounters serves as evidence of their gulf in ability.
Stephen Kearney has fast-paced and explosive talents in abundance, but Australia combine that talent with pragmatic and calm strategy, making them an altogether more calculated beast.
It's been a long five-year wait for Australia, but 2013 marks the year they get back on top.
Prediction: Australia 28-20 New Zealand