Matt Encarnacion, NRL.com
England v Fiji
The Kingston Communications Stadium, Hull
Saturday, 2:30pm (UK time)
Sunday 1:30am (AEDT); 12:30am (AEST)
Sibling rivalry takes centre stage in what has become the battle for second spot in Group A.
With tournament favourites Australia set to finish top of the group and minnows Ireland having all but exited, both England and Fiji are likely to progress through to the quarter-finals against either France or Samoa next week.
But while the final group game for both teams has essentially become a dead rubber, at stake is the title of the nation with the best band of brothers – the Burgess boys from Dewsbury, England or the Sims clan from the NSW south coast via Ba, Fiji.
The hosts regain the most recognised Burgess, Sam, who has come under fire for repeated misdemeanours on the football field in 2013, the last of which resulted in a one-game ban that saw him miss their rout of Ireland.
Sam re-unites with twins Tom and George, the latter of which suffered an ankle injury that limited him to 18 minutes against the Irish. George has been a revelation in the NRL this year and has continued to wreak havoc – he was one of their best against the Kangaroos in the tournament-opener – in the colder confines of home in the northern hemisphere.
All three of the Sims boys, on the other hand, have started both of their games so far – a resounding win over Ireland before a demoralising loss to Australia. Qualifying through Fijian-born mum Jacquline, the trio add some genuine starch to a forward pack that already includes veteran skipper Petero Civoniceva and the ball-running Jayson Bukuya.
Of course, while bragging rights aren’t the sole focus for either team, it certainly makes for an intriguing segue – and a commentator’s nightmare – into the battle for second spot.
Watch Out Fiji: You don’t think Sam Burgess is coming out with a vengeance? The Rabbitohs firebrand has come under plenty of criticism – particularly Down Under – for his knack of getting in trouble with the referees this year, and will come out with a lot to prove. He’s fast becoming the modern day version of Mark Geyer: he will undoubtedly have an impact on this game, but whether it’s good or bad for the home side, time will tell. If the Bati play this right, Slammin’ Sam could find himself in more trouble.
Watch out England: Kangaroos centre Michael Jennings wasn’t kidding when he questioned why former team-mate Petero Civoniceva is retiring after this World Cup. The most capped prop in Kangaroos history has punched out an impressive 252 metres in Fiji’s two games thus far – the most of anyone in his team. The Sims’ boys might come at England in waves, but Civoniceva’s runs are tidal.
Where it will be won: England coach Steve McNamara has copped a boatload of criticism in regards to the Gareth Hock drama, but his insertion of Rangi Chase against the Irish was a masterstroke. Together with Kevin Sinfield, England boast a dangerous halves combination. Their ability to create attacking opportunities on either side of the ruck is the biggest advantage England have over the inexperienced Fijian duo of Alipate Noilea and Aaron Groom.
Televised: 7mate – Live from 1am (NSW); 12am (Qld).
The Way We See It: England made a statement with their demolition of Ireland. Fiji will put up more of a fight, but McNamara will want to continue their momentum into the finals. The home side by at least three tries.
*Statistics: NRL Stats