Members of Parliament have wished the England men’s rugby league team well ahead of the Rugby League World Cup final on Saturday (2 December).
At Prime Minister’s Questions First Secretary of State, Rt Hon. Damian Green MP, and Shadow First Secretary of State, Rt Hon. Emily Thornberry MP passed on their best wishes to the team. The exchange can be viewed here.
A packed Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland at absolute fever pitch was the venue for the second semi-final as England took on Tonga for the honour of taking on Australia in next weeks final.
Wayne Bennett was able to name an unchanged seventeen after Kevin Brown was declared fit and the Warrington half was teamed up with Luke Gale at scrum half and Gareth Widdop at full back. The much fancied Tonga made just one change from the side who were pushed all the way by Lebanon last week with prop Sio Taukeiaho replacing Ofahengaue.
The hopes of an expectant nation rested on seventeen men in white.
After last weeks stunning and surprise 4-2 victory over New Zealand, hosts Australia knew the danger that World Cup underdogs Fiji brought into today’s fixture at the Suncorp Stadium with a place at the final up for grabs.
Both sides named the same seventeen but word from the Australia camp was that Mal Meninga was forced to ‘read the riot act’ at training on Wednesday after a lacklustre run out from the green and gold. Fiji would need the help of their heavenly eighteenth man as they put their faith into their game as they looked to cause a second consecutive shock.
The bookies fancied Australia, but there was just that element of the unknown.
UFRL president Artur Martyrosyan Jnr has complimented all the sides who played this season, which has seen further, steady progress for the sport . “We have completed another excellent season of senior and junior rugby league,” he said. “I would like to congratulate all the teams that have participated, and those that have had success this year.”
Legion XIII were once again the champion side, beating ‘Sokil’ Lvov in the Grand Final to maintain their run of domestic dominance, 2017 seeing them go through unbeaten and conceding their fewest number of points in games.
It has just been announced that New Zealand will tour England from the end of October 2018 with three test matches scheduled against the hosts. The games will be played at the KCOM Stadium in Hull, Anfield in Liverpool, and Elland Road in Leeds.
The news will be a boost to the Kiwis who had a shock World Cup departure at the hands of Fiji last weekend and England will be hoping for a successful climax to their Competition which would see them go into the three test series as World Champions.
“Unprecedented media coverage of the Cedars’ World Cup campaign will lead to increased support at all levels,” claims Lebanon Rugby League Federation president Mohamed Habbous, after the side made the quarter finals for the first time, thereby ensuring their qualification for the next tournament in England in 2021.
“After the first-up pool win against France in Canberra they took significant notice,” added Habbous, who hails from Tripoli, north Lebanon. “We’ve been trying to tell them how strong the team is and how powerful a tool it can be to unite the country and they really saw that after that result.”
After yesterday’s shock win for Fiji over New Zealand and Lebanon pushing Tonga all the way to the final hooter, nerves would have been shredded in the England dressing room as they came up against a passionate and fanatically supported Papua New Guinea in the last quarter final.
PNG took an unbeaten record in the group stages to Melbourne along with a massive points difference bolstered by a 64-0 win over the USA last weekend.
England had Sam Burgess back in the line-up after two games out through injury and last weeks experiment of Gareth Widdop at full-back with Kevin Brown and Luke Gale in the halves was repeated by coach Wayne Bennett.
A semi-final against favourites Australia awaited the winner of the third quarter final between New Zealand and Fiji at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington, New Zealand. The Kiwis came into the game as strong favourites with few giving the flamboyant Fiji any chance of progressing.
Fiji were unbeaten in the competition with a very impressive +140 points difference, and New Zealand showed that they are fallible with last weekends surprise loss to Tonga.
The prospect was for an open game with many neutrals looking for a great Fiji performance after they named an unchanged side after their 38-10 win over Italy last weekend.
The highly impressive, and fancied, Tonga faced the challenge of makeweights Lebanon as the looked to secure a semi-final spot at the Christchurch Stadium.
Tonga won all of their games in the group stages, including that stunning win over New Zealand last weekend whereas Lebanon have just an opening weekend win over France to their name and they came into today’s game after suffering a 34-0 defeat at the hands of Australia last week.
The bookies set their odds in the certainty that it would be Tonga who would progress.
The TIO Stadium in Darwin was the venue as hosts Australia opened the knockout stage of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup with what looked he easiest of games against a Samoa side who have struggled in the competition and progressed to this stage with just a single draw.
While the Kangaroos have cruised through their fixtures in the group stages, Samoa have been comprehensively beaten by New Zealand and Tonga while securing their quarter final spot with an unconvincing draw against Scotland which allowed them to progress with a better points difference.
There could only be one victor, the bookies and pundits all agreed, the Green and Gold.