Australia v Lebanon: RLWC preview
Australia v Lebanon
Sydney Football Stadium
It was the chip and chase that stopped the nation, but Lebanon will need a lot more from Mitchell Moses and his teammates if the Cedars are to pull off a monumental upset against Australia in a World Cup that has already seen a pronounced rekindling of the international game.
Brad Fittler's men will head into Saturday's clash as rank outsiders, but having already accounted for France and shown plenty of fight against England, the Cedars won't be overawed by the occasion.
A win or draw would guarantee a spot in the final eight, while a loss - coupled with an English victory over France – would see them face the winner of the New Zealand-Tonga match in the quarter-finals.
It was business as usual for the Kangaroos last week as Mal Meninga's revamped line-up took care of the French with Wade Graham bagging four tries on the left edge.
Top spot in Pool A is all but assured, with Australia likely to take on Samoa in Darwin in their final eight showdown.
The Kangaroos have made a stack of changes to the side that downed France with Valentine Holmes replacing Billy Slater at fullback while Tom Trbojevic and Cameron Munster make up a new-look centre pairing. James Maloney will partner Cooper Cronk in the halves while Boyd Cordner and Matt Gillett return in the back row.
Lebanon have also made a few changes with Chris Saab (concussion) cleared to return in the back row while Anthony Layoun and James Elias will feature in the backline.
Why Australia can win: Unlike Marmelo, this is a favourite you can back with plenty of confidence. The Aussies showed last week that you can miss the start and still win by 46 lengths and you get the feeling something similar could be brewing once more. The form of Cameron Munster on debut was eye-catching and you can expect a repeat performance from the premiership-winning playmaker when he makes the move to the three-quarter line. His centre partner, Tom Trbojevic, was kept quiet by the French last week. That should spell trouble for the Cedars.
Why Lebanon can win: Spurred on by what should be a boisterous crowd at Allianz Stadium, the Cedars have little to lose. So long as England beat the French, they will make the playoffs. In theory, they can even top Pool A if they beat Australia by 35 points and hope the French keep it close in the other match. Their best hope lies with star trio Mitch Moses, Robbie Farah and Michael Lichaa. If the likes of Alex Twal and Tim Mannah can hold their own in the middle then that will give their talented playmakers a chance to work their magic. It's a long shot, but anything is possible in a two horse race.
The history: This will be their first meeting.
Match officials: Referee: James Child. Touch judges: Chris Sutton and Belinda Sleeman. Video referee: Bernard Sutton.
Televised: Channel Seven – Live Coverage from 7:30pm.
NRL.com predicts: The form line suggests a big Australian win, and while Lebanon might be the sentimental favourites, it's hard to see them going the distance against a champion stayer. Kangaroos by 52.