Australia v USA preview
Australia v USA
Glyndwr University Racecourse Ground, Wrexham
Saturday 1pm (UK time)
Sunday 12am (AEDT); Saturday 11pm (AEST)
Scotland may have crashed the USA's World Cup party with a sobering 22-8 win in their final pool match but it will be Australia who'll leave the Americans with a massive hangover following their quarter-finals clash in Wrexham on Saturday.
The USA have won plenty of fans and triggered more than just passing interest in rugby league back in America but not even the most optimistic supporter of the code would expect them to get within 40 points of the Kangaroos in this do-or-die clash.
The Tomahawks, led by NRL veteran Clint Newton and with a smattering of top-level experience, have been the surprise packets of the tournament, recording upset victories over the Cook Islands (32-20) and Wales (24-16) to advance to the knockout stage. They fell to Scotland in their final hit-out last week.
Meanwhile Australia completed their qualifying preparations with a physical and clinical 50-nil demolition of Ireland last week, taking their tournament scoring record to 112 points for and 22 points against, having conceded just a single penalty goal in their past 160 minutes of play.
Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens originally named a 20-man squad for this clash, reinvesting in the bulk of his best-available talent, with a view to cohesion for next week's semi-final (against either Fiji or Samoa) and the final on December 31.
However, Sheens threw the cat amongst the pigeons on Thursday, dropping right-side centre Brent Tate from the mix in a clear indication that Jarryd Hayne is on track to play inside winger Brett Morris for the remainder of the Tour.
The biggest development this tour has been the emergence of Daly Cherry-Evans as a must-include member of the Australian 17-man squad. DC-E played strongly at halfback in the Kangaroos' 34-2 win over Fiji and was man of the match wearing the No.6 against Ireland. That irresistible attacking form sees him bump Robbie Farah as the utility on the bench.
Prop Paul Gallen remains under an injury cloud (leg), with a decision on his fitness to be made on game day.
Even before the match the Tomahawks have had a win on the financial front, picking up a sponsorship from Sydney-based company One Solutions after starting the World Cup as the only team in the tournament not playing for wages.
Watch Out Australia: There are a few Tomahawks capable of inflicting more than paper cuts on the Aussies. Known NRL quantities Joseph Paulo and Eddy Pettybourne have been damaging. Five-eighth Paulo has contributed six try assists in his three games, while UK-bound Pettybourne is averaging 17 runs and 140 metres a match – including a staggering 21 runs for 174 metres in a beaten side last week. The pair's numbers were achieved against questionable opposition, so Tim Sheens will be counting on the Roos to not offer them too much here.
Watch Out USA: Shutting down the Australian second-phase play will be crucial to limiting the damage on the scoreboard. The Kangaroos posted 14 offloads against Ireland last week, with Daly Cherry-Evans and Paul Gallen leading the way with three apiece.
Coming off the bench last week Andrew Fifita terrorised the Irish, making a game-high eight tackle busts and more metres than anyone else on the park (173). He'll look to roll over the top of the Tomahawks in similar fashion.
Key Match-Up: Not so much a key match-up, but one to look out for is USA winger Bureta Faraimo head to head with Darius Boyd. Faraimo has proven he's not afraid to roll up his sleeves and have a dig – he's averaging 18 runs and 140 metres a game for the USA to date. He has scored just the one try, so perhaps he'll be more of a target for their attack here.
Where It Will Be Won: In the first half. There's a huge question mark hanging over the energy levels of the USA team. They won their two opening games and jumped out of the blocks against Scotland last week, scoring two tries in the opening 23 minutes to scoot to an 8-nil lead. But then they hit the wall, allowing the Bravehearts to rush 22 unanswered points past them.
Against Australia, we'll know very early on whether there's any petrol left in the tank.
Televised: 7mate – Live 11.30pm Saturday (NSW), 10.30pm (Qld).
The Way We See It: Coach Sheens will impress the need to continue to build as the Kangaroos move ever closer to a probable berth in the World Cup Final in a fortnight's time. Clearly the green and gold are a class above the red white and blue. Things to take out of this game are combinations and individual commitment, which will no doubt be key contributors to the final scoreline. Australia by a half-century of points again.
*Statistics: NRL Stats