8 Nov 2022
Wheelaroos focus on task in hand against Spain
Teams prepare for winner-takes-all clash to set up probable France semi
By Milly McEvoy
Australia head coach Brett Clark has advised Spain to focus on their battle for a semi-final spot, with Los Toros admitting they had one eye on a likely last-four showdown with France.
The Wheelaroos take on Spain in a winner-takes-all encounter at the Copper Box Arena tomorrow in what is a repeat of the 2017 group play-offs, when Australia came out on top.
Both sides have tasted defeat to the already-qualified England as well as registering a victory over Ireland, and Clark insists that Spain would be making a mistake by looking too far ahead.
“They’ve got to beat us first,” Clark said bullishly. “They've probably gone a little bit too quick in wanting to play against France.
“But it's good that they've got that view. We're similar, we'd be silly not to.
“I think it's more around, we're going to focus on where we sit, how we play, what our game plan is, coming into that game before we can even focus on semi-finals against France.
“It is probably a bit premature to think that. Watching them, they've got some absolute talent in their team, no question at all.
“But we'll work to just play what we play and hopefully come up with that win.”
Three players remain from Australia’s 2017 campaign, Brad Grove, Craig Cannane and Diab Karim but captain Grove missed out on a tight tussle against Spain last time which ended 49-40 to the Wheelaroos.
For him, tomorrow’s fixture is a chance to make up for it.
He said: “I missed that game due to injury, so I'm really looking forward to getting out there and actually playing them and seeing what they have.
“That game against Spain wasn't an easy game, we were lucky enough to get on top.
“We just have to keep our composure. We've won the game against Ireland but we've got to make sure that we move to the next one and that it is going to be hard fought, but I'm confident.”
Spain made no secrets of their desire for an all-European semi-final against France, who have won the two most recent World Cups and started their campaign for a third with two wins.
Raphael Monedero said: “Our main goal is to play France in the semi-finals. So to do that, we need to first play and beat Australia.
“This is our main goal in the game.”
And while Clark believes Spain need to focus on Australia first, Los Toros head coach Jean-Marc Gonzalez will not adapt his gameplan for their decider.
He said “We are not going to make any difference between teams. Australia have their own style but we are going to play in our own style.
“If Australia makes changes we may make changes but the main goal for us is to play as we know.”
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