The Rugby League World Cup 2017 can lay claim to being the most competitive and unpredictable in the tournament’s 63-year history with this week’s semi-final match-ups featuring giant-killers Fiji and Tonga against Australia and England.
Fiji and Tonga survived enthralling quarter-final battles to claim semi-final berths with two-point victories over New Zealand and Lebanon respectively; while Australia and England qualified comfortably with convincing wins over Samoa and Papua New Guinea over the weekend.
Fiji’s 4-2 win over the Kiwis was the second time in a week (the first being Tonga defeating New Zealand), that a second-tier nation has defeated a tier-one nation.
Australia and Fiji will meet at Brisbane Stadium this Friday night (24 November); while Auckland’s Mt Smart Stadium will play host to Tonga and England on Saturday (25 November) to determine who will contest the 2017 World Cup final at Brisbane Stadium on Saturday week (2 December).
RLWC2017 Chief Executive Andrew Hill said: “The performances of Tonga and Fiji to make the semi-finals undefeated, and the brave efforts of the Lebanon side which had just five NRL players, has broken new ground for the sport.
“The cultural challenges and exciting brand of football on display have captured the imagination of Rugby League fans around the world with television ratings highlighting the global appeal of the game.
“And hearing the players speak so passionately about playing for their countries and inspiring the next generation of Rugby League players in their communities has been incredibly pleasing.”
Over 6 million people in Australia have watched the broadcast of the World Cup to date on the screens of Seven, and a further 10.9 million live streaming minutes. 2.2 million alone tuning into the Australia-Samoa clash, including 788,000 live streaming which continues to rate the number 1 non news show on Friday evenings.
Millions more have watched overseas via BBC in Britain, Sky in New Zealand, BeIN Sport in France and other rights holders in PNG and the Pacific.
More than 280,000 fans have attended matches, with five sell-out games – three in Port Moresby, one in Hamilton (NZ) and another for Darwin’s first Test match on Friday night when the Kangaroos beat Samoa.
ROLL OF HONOUR
Year: Winners/ Runners-up – in Host Country
1954: Great Britain/ France – in France
1957: Australia (1)/ Great Britain – in Australia
1960: Great Britain (1)/ Australia – in England
1968: Australia/ France – in Australia and New Zealand
1970: Australia/ Great Britain – in England
1972: Great Britain/ Australia – in France
1975 (2): Australia (1)/ England – worldwide
1977 (2): Australia/ Great Britain – Australia and New Zealand
1985-88: Australia/ New Zealand – worldwide
1989-92: Australia/ Great Britain – worldwide
1995: Australia/ England – in Great Britain
2000: Australia/ New Zealand – in UK and France
2008: New Zealand/ Australia – in Australia
2013: Australia/ New Zealand – in UK and France
(1) No final played
(2) Competition known as World Series
Summary: Played 14, Australia 10 titles, Great Britain 3, New Zealand 1
Friday, 24 November 2017
7pm AEST Australia v Fiji
Saturday, 25 November 2017
6om NZDT Tonga v England
Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland