End of the road for England

  • By: Ian Millward
  • Last Updated: November 23 2013, 13:38 GMT

Ian Millward previews Saturday's semi-finals at the Rugby League World Cup and expects both favourites to progress.

Sam Tomkins: Needs huge game at Wembley
Sam Tomkins: Needs huge game at Wembley

New Zealand v England (+8) (1300 GMT)

I was extremely disappointed with the performance of England in the second-half against France. They lacked fluency in attack and too many unforced errors. I'm struggling to recall any points being created by the half-backs and while he's had a good tournament, I felt Sam Tomkins was a little quiet.

He'll need to be at his brilliant best on Saturday although this game will be decided down the middle where the two biggest and heaviest packs in the tournament go head to head.

England can point to a very good record in home games against New Zealand since 2005 and will take confidence from that but the Kiwis have Sonny Bill Williams this time and he's the X-factor every side needs.

I think the 12 interchange rule will suit New Zealand more than England because of the size of the forwards on the bench. The only weakness I see in their side is at centre - and that's not an area where England are particularly strong.

I expect New Zealand to win this. Playing with a big home crowd behind them at Wembley is worth a try to England but they didn't go up the anticipated level last week and the Kiwis did. To win here England need to create more chances and I worry about their ability to do that.

I think there may be points - I'd be over the total points mark in this one - and in terms of looking for a man of the match I really think it will come from Isaac luke at hooker or half back Shaun Johnson.

Australia v Fiji (+38) (1530)

This could be a tough one for Fiji. Australia have been very physical all tournament and did a number on them in the pool game at Langtree Park.

Australia have the best outside backs in the tournament and are ruthless. They don't waste opportunities, create chances and they are converted into points. All across the backline they have skilful athletes and you could even argue Greg Inglis switching to full-back strengthens the side.

The Australian pack isn't the biggest but it's very mobile and all round their speed and movement will be too much for their opponents after 20 minutes or so. I do respect Fiji and they are the fourth best side in the competition - but it's Australia to win and cover.

Inglis would be my pick for first try scorer - although Brett Morris is always a threat - and Jonathan Thurston has been the best player in the tournament so far. This is a big stage and he'll revel in it. Take him to produce a man of the match display.

  • Posted at 1255 GMT on 21/11/2013.