England-Samoa double to pay
Former Super League coach Ian Millward picks out his best bets for the forthcoming matches in the Rugby League World Cup.
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He's expecting a good show from England in Saturday's clash with Ireland.
And the ex-St Helens, Wigan and Castelford supremo is also keen on Samoa to cover the handicap in their match.
Check out his match verdicts.
The big problem with France is their inability to score points. They have good structure, they defend well and they play the percentages, but they struggle to put points on the board. I think they will struggle against New Zealand. Samoa are a better team than France and so if New Zealand can keep their foot to the pedal they can beat them and cover the start. My only concern is the emotional boost that France will get from playing at home - that will help - but I expect New Zealand to win and cover.
Ireland will struggle in this one for a couple of reasons. First they are backing up after a very physical game against Fiji on Monday - that will have taken a lot out of them. Second, Scott Grix and Eamon O'Carroll are both out and they will be missed as they've been influential. England will be better off this week after last week's loss to Australia. James Graham returns, while Sean O'Loughlin will also boost them. Their ball-handling ability will be vital to scoring points and will help Kevin Sinfield and Rangi Chase in their roles. I feel England can really put on a show here and see no reason why they can't win easily and cover. They need to bounce back after plenty of pre-tournament criticism but they did score 20 points against Australia and they will at least double that against the Irish.
Australia will lose nothing with the changes they make. In fact, I feel there will be more speed in the team this week with Josh Morris and Michael Jennings in the centres and Greg Inglis at full-back. I can see Australia putting on a show here. Daly Cherry-Evans joins Johnathan Thurston in the halves too so they certainly look quicker and sharper than the team which started v England. The Aussies can win and cover here. Fiji are the second most physical team in the tournament defensively. I thought they were outstanding defensively against Ireland but I don't know if they can repeat that as a quick turnaround hurts their chances. With this tournament you need to keep in mind that the teams all started on an equal footing but now they are have different back-up periods. In the scorer markets, Brett Morris still averages a try a game for Australia and I expect him to score again. We backed Greg Inglis for the first try last week and sadly he passed the ball over the tryline. If and when prices go up, I'd add him to a double with Morris as I'd expect the Kangaroos to score a few in this game.
This is a do-or-die game for Wales. I thought they were disappointing in their first game. I feel coach Iestyn Harris is trying to play with the same structure as Wigan do but they've not quite got the personnel to adapt to it. The game last week will have helped them improve. The US defence won't be anywhere near as aggressive as Italy's was so Wales can get that structure performing better. Wales will hit back and I expect them to win and cover the handicap, particularly with the USA's very short turnaround - they only played on Wednesday.
This looks the most even game of the second round of matches in the tournament. Italy have impressed, beating England in the warm-ups and then Wales last week. They've got a lot of experience and they've had a full week to prepare for this game. They will be on an absolute high at the moment after their recent performances. Scotland will also be buoyed by their midweek win over Tonga but they looked vulnerable at the end of that game. They have not got the same quality of player as Italy and with the better preparation I'd expect Italy to win and cover.
I spoke to people in the Samoa camp this week and this is the game they are targeting. Win it and they will likely get through to the next stage. There were too many errors from Papua New Guinea against France. They will have plenty of enthusiasm but lack the quality to compete with Samoa, who also have a couple of players returning who didn't play in that first game. Their performance against New Zealand was good and they do have the ability to score points - as 24 against the Kiwis showed. They look the better side here and I'd look to put them in a handicap double with England.