21 Oct 2022
Five things to look out for in Round 2 of the men’s Rugby League World Cup
With every side having graced the tournament, here's what can you expect in their second games
By Josh Graham
With Round 1 in the bag, attention is switching towards making the quarter-finals of the men’s Rugby League World Cup as Round 2 kicks off tonight.
Defending champions Australia came from behind to beat Fiji 42-8 in their opening game and the Kangaroos get the second round of fixtures started in Coventry against a Scotland side who were beaten 28-4 by Italy in Group B.
Here are five things to watch out for as Round 2 progresses in the men’s tournament.
Introduction of Australia’s Grand Final contingent
Mal Meninga’s Australia are a tough prospect at the best of times but the introduction of their NRL Grand Final stars against Scotland takes things up a notch.
The Kangaroos coach chose to rest the victorious Penrith Panthers trio of Nathan Cleary, Isaah Yeo, and Liam Martin as well as Paramatta Eel Reagan Campbell-Gillard for their opener against the Bati.
But all four are in action tonight, and Cleary’s battle with Manly and Queensland captain Daly Cherry-Evans to be Meninga’s first-choice scrum-half is an intriguing contest for fans to follow.
England’s unused stars
Similarly to the Kangaroos, England coach Shaun Wane is using the seven players from his 24-man squad that didn’t make an appearance in the commanding opening win over Samoa.
Notably Salford’s Andy Ackers will get his chance to shine at hooker with Michael McIlroum rested and Marc Sneyd can lay claim to a spot in the halves despite the impressive performances of Jack Welsby and George Williams last week.
However, one to watch is John Bateman on his return from suspension with the Wigan star eager to impress given competition for places in England’s second row is rife following the barnstorming displays of Elliott Whitehead and Mike McMeeken at St James’ Park.
Greece’s makeshift half-back
World Cup debutants Greece won many admirers with a spirited display in their opening match, despite going down to a 34-12 defeat to France in Round 1.
However, they have lost captain and half-back Jordan Meads – who provided the kicks for both of the Titans’ tries against Les Tricolores – who has been struck down with flu.
"A moment of history!"
Greece get their first-ever try at the World Cup!
Watch #RLWC2021 on @BBCiPlayer #BBCRL
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) October 17, 2022
Instead, loose forward Billy Magoulias will shift into the halves for the clash against Samoa on Sunday with the full backing of coach Steve Georgallis and it will be interesting to see how he gets on against Matt Parish’s men who have a point to prove.
Can Papua New Guinea turn performance into points?
Papua New Guinea’s valiant display in the 24-18 defeat to Tonga won them many fans, but crucially no matches.
Stanley Tepend’s men will be looking to change that against Cook Islands on Tuesday and with Group D wide open after two close games there’s plenty to play for.
Rhyse Martin skippered the Kumuls expertly and he only needs one more kick to take him to 42 successful shots at goal in a row, which would make him the sole world record holder.
It’s also well worth keeping tabs on hooker Edwin Ipape who was a unanimous selection in our expert panellists’ team of Round 1.
Enthralling encounters and upsets
There’s plenty on the line and some tight tussles expected in Round 2, with sides looking to take a giant step towards the last eight.
Two clashes in particular stand-out, Ireland against Lebanon look to be playing for a spot in the quarters behind the world’s No.1 side New Zealand.
And fans will be treated to an almighty match-up in the halves with Cedars skipper Mitchell Moses fronting up against NRL superstar and Wolfhounds pivot Luke Keary.
Elsewhere, if you are a fan of the underdog, then look no further than Kingston Park on Saturday.
Italy were supremely impressive in their win over Scotland at the same venue last week and if they can replicate that performance then Leo Epifania’s side have a real shot at upsetting Fiji and putting a foot into the knockout stage.
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