England can catch Kiwis cold and book World Cup final spot
The semi-finals of the 2013 Rugby League World Cup take place this weekend at Wembley and are shown live on the BBC, with tournament favourites Australia priced up at 10/11 odds to beat their opponents Fiji by a whopping 39 points or more.
That clash follows what is sure to be a much more evenly-matched contest between hosts England and New Zealand, who shocked the Aussies on their own turf five years ago by claiming a 34-20 win and lifting the trophy in Brisbane.
Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney has former (and possibly future) All Black Sonny Bill Williams – who was part of the New Zealand team that won the Rugby Union World Cup two years ago – to call upon again, after the 28-year-old came through a bruising tackle uninjured against Scotland in the last round.
All of the New Zealand side play in their NRL competition and Kearney has reaped the benefits of that continuity when coaxing some impressive, high-scoring displays out of his charges.
However, on home soil and with full-back Sam Tomkins rivalling Williams for form ahead of his move to the New Zealand Warriors from Wigan, England can emulate the classes of 1975 and 1995 by reaching the final with a win at 15/8 odds.
Steve McNamara’s side started their World Cup campaign with a highly creditable 28-20 defeat against Australia and will beat New Zealand if they can repeat that level of performance.
Stand-off Rangi Chase will not turn out against the country of his birth after a mediocre display in the 34-6 quarter-final win against France and Gareth Widdop’s inclusion in the squad ahead of the Salford man will excite England fans.
The 24-year-old – who plies his trade in the roughhouses of Australian Rugby League for St George Illawarra Dragons – has scored three tries in thirteen appearances for his country.
He is also very handy with the boot and will try to keep New Zealand on the back foot at every opportunity.
Widdop appeals at 7/2 to touch down at some point in the match, but Tomkins looks a great bet to score the last try of what could be his last game in England for some time at 11/1.