Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
3 days ago
And then there were five... Following the weekend's matches there are now five countries left in contention to win the Rugby League World Cup - and tonight Ireland and Fiji do battle to see who survives in the final four.
The Wolfhounds and The Bati each topped their respective groups after completion of the pool games, and will meet at Skilled Stadium on the Gold Coast in a Semi-Final Qualifying Match to see who goes through to face Australia in Sunday's Semi-Final at the Sydney Football Stadium.
So this game looms as the most important match of the Rugby League World Cup so far, and we have the tantilising prospect of two teams in good form who are both capable of playing very entertaining footy for 80 minutes.
Ireland had a narrow but exciting 22-20 loss to Tonga in their opening pool game, but who could forget their surprise win against Samoa? The 34-16 point victory was enough for the Wolfhounds to leapfrog their Pacific Island opponents into the group's qualifying position and keep their World Cup campiagn alive.
Fiji made an immediate impact in their opening pool match with a stunning 42-6 victory against the much fancied French team. However the Bati were brought down to earth by another Celtic nation in a narrow 18-16 loss to Scotland. That margin wasn't enough to put Fiji out of the group's qualifying position, and so we have a sudden death showdown between two underdogs to see who will win through to the Semi Final.
Coaches Andy Kelly of Ireland and Joe Dakuitoga of Fiji have each had two games to fine tune their squad's combinations and go into this clash selecting their strongest line-ups. Both countries have already exceeded their expectations at this tournament, but have the opportunity to achieve even more. This should be a cracker of a game!
Ireland: (likely team - to be confirmed) 1. Michael Platt (Bradford Bulls) 2. Damien Blanch (Wakefield Trinity Wildcats) 3. Sean Gleeson (Wakefield Trinity Wildcats) 4. Stuart Littler (Salford City Reds) 5. Pat Richards (Wigan Warriors) 6. Scott Grix (c) (Wakefield Trinity Wildcats) 7. Liam Finn (Dewsbury Rams) 8. Eamon O