8 Nov 2022
Tedesco: World rankings are irrelevant, we are the best
Australia face New Zealand in a colossal semi-final match-up on Friday night at Elland Road
By Jack Lacey-Hatton
Australia captain James Tedesco is not concerned about New Zealand’s world number one status ahead of their blockbuster semi-final in Leeds on Friday.
New Zealand scraped through their last eight clash against Fiji 20-18 on Saturday to set up a repeat of the 2013 final.
The Kangaroos booked their spot in the last four with a 48-4 win over Lebanon on Friday night, and Tedesco’s teammate Nathan Cleary cheekily suggested that Australia could be considered underdogs, with the Kiwis sitting top of the world rankings.
Australia slid down the ladder due to a lack of games amid the pandemic and their star-studded squad have been imperious form, with no side yet to get remotely close to them four games into their tournament.
But the skipper said he is not too worried about form or rankings as they look to move another step closer to lifting the Paul Barrière Trophy for the third time in a row.
“We’re looking forward to it (the semi-final),” said full-back Tedesco.
“Against New Zealand, to be honest we don’t really give much thought to the world rankings. I don’t think it really means much.
“The important thing at this time is that we see ourselves as the best. We have an expectation that we can win this tournament. And we have that confidence that we can do it.
“It’s going to be a tough task but we want to win the World Cup, as everyone does, and to do that we have to beat everyone.”
Cleary’s mind games are unlikely to fool many with Australia having won 12 Rugby League World Cup matches on the trot in winning the last two tournaments.
Having seemingly won the battle for the coveted scrum-half role over Daly Cherry-Evans, Cleary had a tricky night in front of the sticks against the Cedars with final kicking figures of six from nine attempts.
But Tedesco said that the boys in the dressing room back him to find his range as the competition reaches the business end.
“We don’t look at other goal kickers, we back Nath,” added Tedesco. “He works so hard on that side of his game.
“He practices goal kicking all the time. Val (Valentine Holmes) is also a very good goal kicker, but those two will sort it out.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence in Nath.”
Tedesco also confirmed that although he spent the second half on bench with his knee iced, it was purely a precaution and he is not an injury worry for the game at Elland Road on Friday night.
“I just got caught at the end of the first half,” he said. “But I was just resting up. My knee is sweet, it’s all good.
“If it was a final I could have kept going, but we had a comfortable lead.”
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