France and Lebanon face off at the Canberra Stadium on Sunday looking to take advantage of England’s opening defeat on Friday.
Pool A and tournament favourites Australia defeated England in the Rugby League World Cup’s opening match, and the opportunity has arisen for either France or Lebanon to leapfrog Wayne Bennett’s side – with France the favourites to make a strong start to their World Cup campaign.
Les Bleus meet Lebanon off the back of a 34-12 warm-up victory over Jamaica at Catalans Dragons’ Stade Gilbert Brutus stadium. Centres Bastien Ader and Damien Cardace added three tries between them while Catalans’ Benjamin Garcia and Warrington Wolves’ Benjamin Jullien each scored a try of their own in a tie which France boss Aurelien Cologni used to field one of his strongest starting line-ups.
Lebanon, the only nation to qualify for the World Cup from the African and Middle East region, will see Sunday’s game against the French as their best chance of qualification into the quarter-finals. The Cedars’ won the Phoenician Cup with a 24-4 victory over Malta in May, a victory which saw North Sydney Bears winger Abbas Miski claim a hat-trick of tries.
But Lebanon will be counting on the NRL experience of half-back pairing Robbie Farah and Mitchell Moses if they are to win against France on Sunday. Farah, a Premiership winner with Wests Tigers and a former New South Wales Origin captain, will be responsible alongside Parramatta Eels’ Mitchell Moses for organising his side’s attacks and setting the tone for Brad Fittler’s team.
The Cedars’ attacking pairing of Farah and Moses will be coming up against Theo Fages and William Barthau, their counterparts on Sunday in the game’s key battle – both are worthy of earning their side the points in this Pool A fixture.
France have, overall, more quality and depth than Lebanon and will be looking to utilise this on Sunday – France by 10.
Scotland v Tonga at Barlow Park, Cairns, 5.15pm (AEDT)
Scotland 21-man squad: 1 Lewis TIERNEY, 2 Matthew RUSSELL, 3 Ben HELLEWEL, 4 Lachlan STEIN, 5 Will OAKES, 6 Danny BROUGH (c), 7 Danny ADDY, 8 Luke DOUGLAS
9 Kane BENTLEY, 10 Ben KAVANAGH, 11 Frankie MARIANO, 12 Dale FERGUSON, 13 James BELL, 14 Callum PHILLIPS, 15 Andrew BENTLEY, 16 Sam BROOKS, 17 Johnny WALKER, 18 Alex WALKER, 19 Jarred ANDERSON, 20 Kieran MORAN, 21 Brandan WILKINSON
Tonga 21-man squad: 1. Will Hopoate, 2. Daniel Tupou, 3. Michael Jennings, 4. Konrad Hurrell, 5. Manu Vatuvei, 6. Tuimoala Lolohea, 7. Ata Hingano, 8. Andrew Fifita, 9. Siliva Havilli, 10. Sio Siua Taukieaho, 11. Manu Ma’u, 12. Sika Manu (C), 13. Jason Taumalolo. Interchange: 14. Sione Katoa, 15. Sam Moa, 16. Peni Terepo, 17. Ben Murdoch-Masila, 18. Joe Ofahengaue, 19. Solomone Kata, 20. David Fusitu’a, 21. Samisoni Langi