Fri, Nov 22, 5:34pm by Daryl Curnow
When: 12:00am, November 24.
Where: Wembley Stadium, London, England
Bet with: Ladbrokes.com.au and get $250 in bonus bets.
The Kiwis shocked the world when winning the 2008 World Cup final against Australia when Nathan Fien scored the winning try under the posts, and they’ll be hoping to return to the final again this year.
There is one thorn in the side of the Kiwis however and that’s their record in England. They generally struggle to find their best form and against the home nation, they will be up for a spirited battle as England try and reach their first World Cup final on home soil.
England started their campaign with a tough loss against Australia, going down 28-20 after leading 10-0 early in the game. They followed that loss with a comfortable 42-0 win over Ireland where Ryan Hall crossed the line for three tries, adding to his teams eight try haul. The English winger has scored eight tries in the tournament and his role in that team is even more vital now that starting New Zealand winder Manu Vatuvei has been ruled out of Sunday’s clash with a groin injury. The Leeds Rhino’s player has taken his overall test tries tally to 13 from 15 matches and he’ll likely play a major role in the semi final.
Kevin Sinfield is possibly England’s most important player and playmaker as the utility will look to confuse the Kiwi defense. The England captain hasn’t scored in the tournament so far but he has provided two try assists and his goal kicking has been solid. Rangi Chase has been dropped for this game, making way for Melbourne Storm’s Gareth Widdop instead. The England side has been surrounded by controversy all tournament as the Bulldogs prop James Graham was left out of the team to face Australia in Wales, and now Chase’s exclusion has people scratching their heads.
The Kiwi born half-back has had his up’s and down’s but it’s widely known that England coach Steve McNamara backs the versatile half. McNamara has come out saying he needs to pick a team suited to playing against the Kiwis and perhaps he feels a former Kiwi isn’t the best person for the job. Gareth Widdop has overcome a dislocated hip which he suffered during an NRL game this season, and he will eager to make his mark on the game.
Like Fiji, England has a trio of brothers by the way of George, Thomas and Sam Burgess. They are all bruisers and Sam Burgess has become one of the premier ball handling forwards in the game. He often gets carried away with his handling skills but his offload is an asset the Kiwis need to be aware of. Along with his brothers – who generally start on the bench – the brothers are a tight unit who play with great passion. Last but not least, Sam Tomkins is one of the best fullbacks in the world and he’ll be eager to get his first try of the tournament. Tomkins has scored 16 tries in 15 tests but has been unable to cross the white line in the World Cup. He’s had seven try assists however and the recently acquired New Zealand Warriors recruit will look to show some of his upcoming team mates what he’s all about.
The Kiwis started their tournament with an average performance against fellow semi-finalists Samoa, but they have steadily improved since. They let in 24 points against Samoa but the bulk of those points came late in the game when Samoa made a last ditch effort, not to mention the help they received from Sonny Bill Williams when he slipped over the dead-ball line. Manu Vatuvei scored a hat-trick of tries and was denied a fourth but he will be sorely missed for this clash due to a groin strain suffered against Scotland.
The Kiwis quickly tightened the screws when beating France 48-0 as Shaun Johnson chimed in with two tries. The half back has impressed so far by scoring three tries and setting up another four to go along with the 25 kicks for goal he has successfully made. Along with Keiran Foran – who has nine try assists – New Zealand have been beating teams through the middle of the defense with distinction. Dummy-half Isaac Luke is a key aspect to this as he has the ability to fool players by letting them think he’s going to pass, but instead he runs.
The Kiwis defeated Papua New Guinea by 56-10 which included a Sonny Bill hat-trick as the enigmatic second rower had his way with the dismal PNG defense. He’s a confident player and his offload is the best in the game, so England will need to commit multiple players in order to contain him and that’s when he’s at his best. SBW has won basically everything he’s tried and he’d love to add the Rugby League World Cup to his ever-growing list of achievements.
In the quarter-finals the Kiwis put together an 80-minute performance and drubbed Scotland 40-4 with Goodwin and Tuivasa-Sheck scoring doubles. The Kiwis ran for 1613 metres in a dominating performance of power and skill and England will be well aware of how well New Zealand plays in the tournament format.
Home advantage has its perks and England will look to exploit the Kiwis in an uncomfortable environment. It’s not a hidden fact that teams like to have a hard hit-out before the finals and that’s what England got in their opening match against Australia. New Zealand hasn’t had the luxury of a tough game and that will heavily favour England here. England is injury free and their star fullback Sam Tomkins is due a big game so expect him to be a little more active here. Ryan Hall is a man on fire and if he continues to score at this rate, the Kiwis will struggle to contain England. He’s a prolific scorer and he gives England a great chance to pull off an upset.
New Zealand are the favourites for this game, not because of their tournament form, but because since their win in 2008, they have only but added more depth and skill to their ranks. With new talent such as Sonny Bill Willians, Kieran Foran, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and many others, New Zealand has added the right ingredients to make another final. The Kiwis have something England doesn’t, which is a good dummy-half runner in Isaac Luke and with forwards such as Kasiano, Eastwood, and Matulino, they’re not lacking in size either.
Head-to-head: New Zealand @ $1.35, England @ $3.20
Points spread: New Zealand -8.5 @ $2.02 with Ladbrokes.com.au
If this was played away from home, England would likely be double digit underdogs, but home advantage has about a four-point swing. Even so, New Zealand hasn’t shifted out of second gear this tournament and they’ll be rearing to go for this clash. They have firepower in all aspects of the game whether it is through the middle or out the backs; the Kiwis simply have too much talent for England. New Zealand also has the experience of winning a World Cup and that’s something England might find difficult to overcome when the game is in the balance.
New Zealand -8.5 @ 2.02 with Ladbrokes.com.au
We also think New Zealand will lead from the outset and force England to make a comeback, which we don’t see happening. New Zealand has historically been fast starters – as witnessed in many an Anzac Test – and are susceptible to a late collapse, but with so much on the line, the Kiwis should be too good.
New Zealand halftime-fulltime double @ $1.67 with Ladbrokes.com.au
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