Rugby League World Cup
Bill Shankly was wrong when he implied that football was more important than life or death and Jonathan Trott and his family probably now don’t really care who wins the Ashes. However, the global sporting show goes on and responsible betting is part of that show and the Rugby League World Cup Final is the next big event of interest. Australia are 1/3 to beat New Zealand in the deciding match of this year’s tournament at Old Trafford on Saturday.
The Rugby League World Cup was first staged in 1954 and there have been 12 renewals since then. The competition has never had a fixed date in the calendar as on some occasions there has been a three year gap between tournaments and at other times eight years have passed between successive competitions. For example there was a World Cup in 2000 but not another for eight years. The event is now on a four year cycle and France are the next hosts in 2017.
Australia, France and New Zealand are the only teams to have not missed a tournament. Only Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain have been world champions. Australia are by far the most successful side with nine wins. Great Britain were ever present before a split into England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland in 1995.
The format of the tournament has evolved significantly since 1954. At first the event involved just four teams, from Australia, Britain, France and New Zealand. Between 1975 and 1992 matches were played on a home and away basis. In its next format teams had to qualify from regional groups. Sixteen teams took part with the last eight playing elimination matches.
For the first time in its history the 2013 RLWC involved fourteen teams playing in the tournament over five weeks at 19 rugby league grounds across Britain and Ireland and two in France. The teams were split into two groups of four sides and two of three. Three nations qualified from the bigger groups and two from the combined two groups of three sides. Eight teams progressed to the knockout stages the culmination of which is the World Cup Final this weekend.
Sonny Bill Williams is arguably the world’s greatest sportsmen, having played three different sports at elite level. On Saturday he could become the first man to win a World Cup in rugby league as well as union. He is on the shortlist with Danny Brough of Huddersfield and Australia’s Greg Inglis to named International Player of the Year. The outcome of the World Cup Final could determine who receives this honour.
Williams put in a huge performance as New Zealand reached the final by beating England last weekend. It gives the former union player and reigning New Zealand heavyweight boxing champion the chance to play against Australia at Old Trafford. England were just 20 seconds from beating New Zealand but two errors in the last minute of the match proved crucial.
Leading 18-14 with the match reaching a desperate denouement George Burgess conceded a late penalty. As the black wave neared the England line Shaun Johnson shimmied his way past the host’s defences which edged marginally too far forward. The Kiwis had scored a try and the conversion was a formality. New Zealand showed the resolve of true champions. This was their third successive win over England in the semi-finals.
The World Cup final will be a repeat of 2008 as Australia easily beat Fiji in a match that was totally different to the semi-final that went before it. The Aussies have barely been troubled throughout the pursuit of a trophy they consider their own and the game against Fiji was no different as they scored 11 tries without reply.
Australia have not conceded a try since the opening match of the tournament against England. They will be confident of beating New Zealand in the final and make up for the disappointment of losing to the same side in the final in Brisbane five year ago. The Kangaroos were warming up as distraught England players were still scattered around the Wembley pitch that staged the double header of last four matches last weekend.
Australia beat Fiji 52-0 in the 2008 tournament and also won the group match between the sides. In this year’s match they scored early and added to their tally of tries at regular intervals. The final score was an accurate reflection of the relative merits of the sides and it was Australia’s sustained dominance that caused Fiji to tire towards the end of the match.
Australia and New Zealand have both won each of the five matches played in the tournament to date. Australia have scored 238 points and conceded 22 while New Zealand’s scoring record is for 206 and against 56. That means Australia average winning margin has been 43 points while the equivalent figure for their opponents is 30. Therefore, on the basis of collateral form Australia should be 13 point favourites.
With outright betting not attractive except for the big hitters handicap punters may want to decide whether to back the favourites or underdogs based on these figures.