The opening weekend of the Rugby League World Cup concludes on Sunday with the final three matches of the first round of group matches. After the action on Sunday we will have seen all 14 sides in the competition and will have a better gauge on the campaign ahead.
The trio of matches on Sunday sees Ireland and Scotland get their tournaments underway on what is a busy day albeit with the action crammed into a smaller window than on Saturday.
Ireland vs Italy
The first of the two cross-group matches in the tournament takes place in the opening game on Sunday when Ireland take on Italy. Both sides saw the superior teams in their groups win handsomely on Saturday which has piled the pressure on them both for this one.
Ireland will hope to put up a solid performance in this match but they look to be up against it against a potentially dangerous Italy side who are clearly going to be boosted by the addition to their ranks of James Tedesco who could be a star of the tournament.
I’m expecting an Italian show here but I do have concerns over whether they can keep the back door shut and with the handicap lines at a couple of converted tries I think that looks about right to me so I’ll save my money for later in the day.
France vs Lebanon
The two minnows in Group A meet in the second match of the day in the match which is highly likely to determine who the third quarter finalist from the section will be. France will look to use their experience when they face a Lebanon side who are in their first World Cup since 2000.
France go into the match as the more established side but they are very much a nation on the decline in my eyes and that may not bode well for them in this one. Lebanon may be new to big time rugby again but they look like they have the potential to be dangerous.
In Robbie Farah they have the most experienced man on the field and his tackling, work-rate and drive will lead them around the field and the plethora of NRL players in their squad should be able to build up a head of steam off the back of that. France are favoured in this one but I think Lebanon can cause the upset.
Scotland vs Tonga
Arguably the most eagerly awaited match of the opening set of fixtures comes in the last game of the round as Scotland, looking to build on a solid Four Nations showing, go up against the side everyone wants to see in Tonga.
Much has been made of the calibre and number of players that have defected to play for Tonga in this tournament and we get to see how they function for the first time in this tournament. The big question over the Tongans is whether or not they will gel but you would think common logic would suggest they will get better the longer the tournament goes along.
Scotland go into the tournament knowing they have to win one of their three matches to make the quarter final so they have a free shot at this one. I’m not convinced they will win it but they are strong enough in defence and can ride Danny Brough’s kicking game enough to stay within 34pts.
WON – Back Lebanon to beat France for a 4/10 stake at 2.00 with Ladbrokes
Back Scotland (+34) to beat Tonga for a 4/10 stake at 2.00 with William Hill