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2021 RLWC Semi-Final Teams, Preview and Predictions

Here’s a look at the semi-finals at the 2021 Rugby League World Cup, with team news, previews and predictions.

Related: RLWC Quarter Final Teams, Preview and Predictions

Semi-Final 1 – Australia vs New Zealand (Elland Road, November 11)

Kick-off GMT 19:45, Syd 06:45 Nov 12, NZ 08:45 Nov 12

Australia:  1. James Tedesco, 2. Daly Cherry-Evans, 3. Ben Hunt, 4. Valentine Holmes, 5. Jake Trbojevic, 6. Reagan Campbell-Gillard, 7. Cameron Munster, 8. Latrell Mitchell, 9. Josh Addo-Carr, 10. Jack Wighton, 11. Cameron Murray, 12. Patrick Carrigan, 14. Nathan Cleary, 15. Reuben Cotter, 17. Angus Chrichton, 18. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, 20. Harry Grant, 21. Liam Martin, 24. Isaah Yeo.

New Zealand: 1. Joseph Manu, 2. Ronaldo Mulitalo, 4. Peta Hiku, 5. Jordan Rapana, 6. Dylan Brown, 7. Jahrome Hughes, 8. Jesse Bromwich, 9. Brandon Smith, 10. James Fisher-Harris, 11. Isaiah Papali’i, 12. Kenneath Bromwich, 13. Joseph Tapine, 14. Kieran Foran, 15. Moses Leota, 16. Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 17. Briton Nikora, 19. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, 20. Isaac Liu, 21. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad.

Referee: TBA

Head-to-Head: Played 137, Australia 101, New Zealand 33, Drawn 3 (Last Match: 25/10/2019, Australia 26-4)

Before the 2021 RLWC, Australia hadn’t played a Test since October/November 2019 (beating New Zealand and losing to Tonga), but that rustiness didn’t matter: they belted Fiji 42-8, Scotland 84-0, and Italy 66-6 in the group stage, and then Lebanon 48-4 in the quarter final.

But will the lack of tough footy be a help or hindrance in the semi finals? Australia would be confident enough to say that six months of NRL and an intense Origin series is enough preparation. And that’s hard to argue with when they’ve been so dominant, despite the lack of quality opposition.

New Zealand beat Lebanon 34-12, Jamaica 68-6, and Ireland 48-10 in the group stage. Despite the large margins, the Kiwis weren’t as clinical as you’d expect, and they only led Lebanon 18-12 early in the second half before kicking away. Then came the epic quarter final against Fiji: after so many boring blowouts, this was the close game we were craving, with Jordan Rapana’s 78th minute try (and four goals from five) sealing a 24-18 win against a gallant Bati.

Australia have arguably been more impressive so far, and they’ll be confident in going one step closer to defending their 2017 title.

Predictions

Matt PritchardAndrew PelechatyShannon MeyerLachlan JeffereyJack Harbidge
Australia by 14Australia by 10Australia by 12NZ by 2Australia by 8

Semi-Final 2 – England V Samoa (Emirates Stadium, November 12)

Kick-off GMT 14:30, Syd 01:30 Nov 13, NZ 03:30 Nov 13

England: 1 Sam Tomkins, 2 Tommy Makinson, 3 Kallum Watkins, 4 Herbie Farnworth, 6 Jack Welsby, 7 George Williams, 8 Tom Burgess, 9 Micky McIlorum, 10 Luke Thompson, 11 Elliott Whitehead, 12 John Bateman, 13 Victor Radley, 14 Dom Young, 15 Morgan Knowles, 17 Mike Cooper, 18 Chris Hill, 20 Mike McMeeken, 21 Marc Sneyd, 24 Kai Pearce-Paul

Samoa: 21 Fa’amanu Brown, 4 Stephen Crichton, 20 Chanel Harris-Tavita, 15 Royce Hunt, 23 Oregon Kaufusi, 25 Tim Lafai, 16 Spencer Leniu , 6 Jarome Luai, 2 Taylan May, 7 Anthony Milford, 8 Josh Papali’i, 10 Junior Paulo (captain), 11 Ligi Sao, 26 Ken Sio, 12 Jaydn Su’a, 1 Joseph Sua’ali’i, 17 Martin Taupau, 5 Brian To’o, 22 Kelma Tuilagi

Referee: TBA

Head-to-Head: Played 4, England 4, Samoa 0 (Last Match: 16/10/2022, England 60-6)

Despite being the hosts, England went into this RLWC relatively unfancied, and were expected to be run over by a Samoan side dominated by the premiership-winning Penrith Panthers.

But, they surprised everyone on the tournament’s opening day, destroying Samoa 60-6. The Three Lions kept their foot on the throat, smashing France 42-18 (though they only led 18-12 at half-time), putting a cricket score on Greece (94-4), and also flogging PNG (46-6) in the quarter final. Dominic Young (nine) and Tommy Makinson (seven) were just behind Josh Addo-Carr (11) in the tournament’s top tryscorers, while Makinson (58) is the joint leading point-scorer (tied with Nathan Cleary).

Now they have a rematch with Samoa, who have rebounded from the opening day’s loss to demolish Greece (72-4) and France (62-4), and beat Tonga 20-18 in an absorbing quarter final. While it’s a bit harsh to call their quarter final win an “upset”, consider where they were in 2017: they finished with one draw and two losses in Group B and – with three teams each from Groups A and B advancing to the finals – were lucky to qualify for the quarter finals ahead of Ireland. And after all that, Australia destroyed them 46-0 in the quarter final.

Despite Samoa’s resurgence, England will be confident of winning infront of a partisan home crowd and with memories of their big win a month ago.

Predictions

Matt PritchardAndrew PelechatyShannon MeyerLachlan JeffereyJack Harbidge
England by 8England by 30England by 20England by 4England by 82

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