The third weekend of the Rugby League World Cup begins with a Group D clash as Fiji take on Italy in a match which will determine the quarter finalist from that section of the competition. Both sides go into the game with a chance of progressing.
The Fijians have looked very good in this tournament so far although this will be their toughest test to date. Italy bounced back from an opening defeat well last week with an emphatic win but they need another if they are to progress. Not only do they need to win but they need to win by 46pts or more if they are going to remain in the competition. Anything else and Fiji advance.
Fiji have begun the tournament with two emphatic wins and if they can produce another one here then they will need to be taken seriously in the next round. We will find out a little more about their general credentials in this tournament but on what we have seen so far they look like they will be a real force.
They have a dynamic back line and the mobility and power in their forwards is the envy of a number of sides in the competition. If there is a concern for them it could be that with them through barring something of a mathematical miracle they take their foot off the gas but I’m not convinced that is going to be the case.
You have to give credit to Italy for bouncing back from a poor defeat to Ireland in their opening match with a dominant win over the USA in the second one. If they continue to improve game-by-game then they have enough right to believe they will be dangerous in this match. They might need to improve to be competitive though.
The big concern heading into the match is how their defence struggled to contain the Irish forwards. They are decent enough but nothing compared to this Fiji unit so they are really going to have to muscle up on defence. The lack of fluency in the halves is a problem too although man for man they have talent in their squad for sure.
Fiji are set to name their strongest side which is left for this match. That means Super League star Ashton Sims will start as will their NRL ace Jarryd Hayne. Kevin Naiqama has really impressed in the tournament.
Italy are hoping to have Terry Campese fit for what is likely to be his final match as a professional. He will be given the number six jersey for the occasion. Mark Minichello, Josh Mantellato and James Tedesco are household names.
It is not always the case that the obvious bet is the right bet but it very much is the case in this match. That bet is over 52.5pts. It is obvious because Italy are going to have to throw the ball around and try to win big but taking risks against this Fiji side is going to be tough.
Fiji have piled up the points in this tournament so far and if given cheap ball I expect them to run in some tries here too but Italy are organised enough in attack to have the right plays close to the try line to open up the Fijians. I’m expecting plenty of points here.
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