Rugby League: Get the lowdown on the Four Nations contenders
Rugby League’s best go head-to-head in Australasia for the 2014 edition of the Four Nations and Ladbrokes News is here to give you the lowdown on the four sides in contention.
Australia, New Zealand, England and Samoa are the sides in question and Oliver Yew is ready with his thoughts and predictions on the upcoming action from Down Under.
There’s no two words about it – the Kiwis were second best when it came to the World Cup final against Australia.
But nearly 12 months on New Zealand are in a strong position with coach Stephen Kearney’s squad boasting plenty of top notch NRL talent, particularly in the half-backs with the dynamic duo of Kieran Foran and Shaun Johnson.
Playing on their home continent is also an advantage with the Kiwis winning the 2008 World Cup and the 2010 Four Nations, and at 11/4 we believe they are the value to make it a third successive tournament win on their home continent.
It’s hard to write off any Kangeroos side and we certainly won’t be ruling them out completely but Tim Sheens’ team have been hit with a huge number of injuries and withdrawals to their squad ahead of the tournament opener.
Just 11 of the men who ripped New Zealand apart at Old Trafford last year to claim a 10th World Cup title and while their replacements are good NRL players, they are not World Class stars.
It would be a surprise not to see the Aussies in the final but the value lies in backing the Kiwis to gain revenge for their World Cup defeat.
It was heart-break for Steve McNamara’s side at the World Cup after New Zealand’s last-gasp try broke England hearts at the semi-final stage but this tournament represents a chance at redemption for the English players.
Sam Burgess’ decision to try his hand at Union is a huge blow to the squad but with the likes of his brother George, James Graham, Gareth Widdop and Sam Tomkins all plying their trade in the NRL, they have the quality to land a blow in the competition.
A lack of a world class superstar half-back could be an issue but England’s brilliant pack – they possess the best go-forward in the competition – allows them to have an excellent crack at reaching the final and possibly even writing the wrongs of the World Cup to win their first tournament on Australasian soil.
Verdict: Close call but England miss out on the final
Newcomers Samoa booked their place in the tournament with a bruising 32-16 defeat of Fiji in May and coach Matt Parish has nine of the players from the historic win still at his disposal.
When Australia, New Zealand and England come off the pitch against the Samoans they will certainly know they have been in a huge physical battle.
Whether or not they have the skill to land a blow on any of the big three remains to be seen but they should be competitive with their speed and power a real asset.
Verdict: Wooden Spoon – but don’t be surprised if they come close to causing an upset!
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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