Meet men's Group B: Australia, Fiji, Scotland and Italy

The Kangaroos are expected to challenge for the trophy once again

13 Oct 2022

Meet men's Group B: Australia, Fiji, Scotland and Italy

The Kangaroos are expected to challenge for the trophy once again

By James Toney

AUSTRALIA

After winning eight of the last nine men's Rugby League World Cups, it's hard to make a case that the all-conquering Kangaroos won't be at the business end of the tournament again.

They’ve not played in over 1,000 days and have been hit by the decision of several players to run out for their heritage nations, including Sydney Roosters’ teenage sensation Joseph Suaalii, viewed by many as one of the game's brightest stars.

Coach Mal Meninga toured England with the Australian Invincibles in 1982 and certainly brings an aura to the role, though he'll need all his savvy to knit together a team that includes 13 international newcomers, though only one player without experience in the State of Origin furnace.

James Tedesco is the world's top full-back and takes the captain's role, having played for Italy in the previous two tournaments.

There were plenty of top names left at home, such is the defending champions’ strength in depth, and in Nathan Cleary they boast arguably the most complete player in the game.

Saturday, October 15, Australia v Fiji, Headingley Stadium, Leeds, 7.30pm

Friday, October 21, Australia v Scotland, Coventry Building Society Arena, Coventry, 7.30pm

Saturday, October 29, Australia v Italy, Totally Wicked Stadium, St Helens, 7.30pm

Most points in a World Cup match: Ryan Girdler (46) vs Russia, 2000

Most goals in a World Cup match: Ryan Girdler (17) vs Russia, 2000

Most tries in a World Cup match: Valentine Holmes (6) vs Fiji, 2017

Record World Cup points scored: 110-4 v Russia, 2000

Record World Cup points conceded: 0-18 v New Zealand, 1985

Previous record

1954: Third in group, 1957: Winner (First in group), 1960: Runner-up (Second in group), 1968: Winner (defeated France 20-2 in Final), 1970: Winner (defeated Great Britain 12-7 in Final), 1972: Runner-up (drew 10-10 with Great Britain in Final; titled awarded to Great Britain who had finished first in group) 1975: Winner (First in group), 1977: Winner (defeated Great Britain 13-12 in Final),1985-88: Winner (defeated New Zealand 25-12 in Final), 1989-92: Winner (defeated Great Britain 10-6 in Final), 1995: Winner (defeated England 16-8 in Final), 2000: Winner (defeated New Zealand 40-12 in Final), 2008: Runner-up (lost 34-20 to New Zealand in Final), 2013: Winner (defeated New Zealand 34-2 in Final), 2017: Winner (defeated England 6-0 in Final)

FIJI

Fiji have made the semi-finals at the last three World Cups and are ranked number six in the world but are flying in under the radar.

With more attention on Tonga and Samoa, it's worth taking a few minutes to look at the strength of their 24-man squad, including the likes of captain Kevin Naiqama, Mikaele Ravalawa, Maika Sivo, Viliame Kikau and Brandon Wakeham.

In Api Koroisau - newly-signed for Wests Tigers - Fiji boast arguably the best hooker in the game and there are few more fearsome front rowers than Tui Kamikamica.

Brian McDermott, who masterminded four Super League Grand Final wins with Leeds, is helping behind the scenes but a 50-0 warm-up defeat to England showed the task ahead.

There is pace and power across this team but there are some frailties too, Papua New Guinea winning a hard-fought Pacific Test 24-14, Fiji’s first international since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Saturday, October 15, Australia v Fiji, Headingley Stadium, Leeds, 7.30pm

Saturday, October 22, Fiji v Italy, University of Bolton Stadium, Bolton, 5pm

Saturday, October 29, Fiji v Scotland, Kingston Park, Newcastle, 5pm

Most points in a World Cup match: Lote Tuqiri (18) vs Russia, 2000

Most goals in a World Cup match: Wes Naiqama (7) vs France, 1998

Most tries in a World Cup match: Suliasi Vunivalu (3) vs Italy, 2017

Record World Cup points scored: 72-6 v Wales, 2017

Record World Cup points conceded: 0-66 v Australia, 1995

Previous record

1995: Third group A (eliminated), 2000: Third group A (eliminated), 2008: Semi-finalist (lost 0-52 to Australia), 2013: Semi-finalist (lost 0-64 to Australia), 2017: Semi-finalist (lost 6-54 to Australia)

SCOTLAND

Scotland reached the last eight in 2013 but were on the end of some bruising defeats five years ago before holding Samoa to a dramatic draw in Cairns.

Coach Nathan Graham has NRL centre Euan Aitken in his ranks and was hoping to get Rabbitohs' Campbell Graham signed up too, before he got the call from Australia coach Mal Meninga.

There are other players in the NRL system but yet to make their debut, including highly-rated Brisbane Broncos prop Logan Bayliss-Brow.

In total there are seven new faces in the line-up but plenty of names familiar to fans of UK leagues, including former Hull FC centre Kieran Buchanan.

Dale Ferguson will captain the team, who will be seeking to relive their famous draw with New Zealand at Workington in the Four Nations six years ago.

Saturday, October 16, Scotland v Italy, Kingston Park, Newcastle, 2.30pm

Friday, October 21, Australia v Scotland, Coventry Building Society Arena, Coventry, 7.30pm

Saturday, October 29, Fiji v Scotland, Kingston Park, Newcastle, 5pm

Most points in a World Cup match: Danny Brough (10) vs Italy, 2013

Most goals in a World Cup match: Danny Brough (5) vs Italy, 2013

Most tries in a World Cup match: Ben Hellewell (2) vs Italy, 2013

Record World Cup points scored: 30-30 v Italy, 2013

Record World Cup points conceded: 6-74 v New Zealand, 2017

Previous record

2000: Fourth in group 4 (eliminated), 2008: Eighth (lost 0-48 to Tonga in play-off), 2013: Quarter-finalist (lost 4-40 to New Zealand), 2017: Fourth in group B (eliminated)

ITALY

Nathan Brown captains the Azzurri, who have never been beyond the group stages in two previous appearances at the Rugby League World Cup.

Leo Epifania has plenty of Australian-based talent on his team with Cooper Johns, recently released by Melbourne Storm, keen to showcase himself ahead of the 2023 NRL season.

However, there is no James Tedesco, who played for Italy in the last two editions but now captains defending champions Australia.

But there are more Italian-born players than ever before, including Giordano Arena, Simone Boscolo, Ippolito Occhialini and the evergreen Gieolo Celerini.

Italy beat Spain to earn their place in this tournament but this is arguably the toughest group in the competition for a team currently ranked 17th in the world.

Saturday, October 16, Scotland v Italy, Kingston Park, Newcastle, 2.30pm

Friday, October 21, Australia v Scotland, Coventry Building Society Arena, Coventry, 7.30pm

Saturday, October 29, Australia v Italy, Totally Wicked Stadium, St Helens, 7.30pm

Most points in a World Cup match: Josh Mantellato (18) vs USA, 2017

Most goals in a World Cup match: Josh Mantellato (7) vs USA, 2017

Most tries in a World Cup match: Josh Mantellato (2) vs USA, 2017

Record World Cup points scored: 46-0 v USA, 2017

Record World Cup points conceded: 10-38 v Fiji, 2017

Previous record

2013: Third in group C (eliminated), 2017: Second in group D (eliminated)

The Rugby League World Cup promises to be the biggest, best and most inclusive event in the sport’s 127-year history with men’s, women’s and wheelchair teams competing in 61 games across 21 venues throughout England. Tickets are available via rlwc2021.com/tickets

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