There are plenty of top sporting tournaments taking place at present and rugby league doesn’t want to feel left out. This weekend sees the inaugural Oceania Cup begin down under with matches taking place in both Australia and New Zealand.
Top Countries Battling it Out
This new tournament is being contested for by the top rugby league teams in the Oceania region. There are two groups of three teams, and it starts this weekend and concludes in November. There are some great games on the way and plenty of betting opportunities available for each match. There are lots of online sets with odds on a lot of markets and you can bet on rugby here.
Group A comprises of Australia, New Zealand and Tonga so there are some great matches lined up. The group winners will receive the Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) Oceania Cup.
Group B has Fiji, Samoa and Papua New Guinea competing for the RLIF Oceania Shield. Whoever finishes top of that group will be promoted to Group A for the 2020 tournament. This is because Australia are off on tour to Europe next summer so won’t be taking part in next year’s Oceania Cup.
Tough Test for Tonga
The tournament begins on June 22nd with a Group A fixture between New Zealand and Tonga. This takes place at the Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland. The hosts are ranked third in the world compared to Tonga who are a place below them.
The New Zealanders were second in the rankings but have recently been overtaken by England, with Australia still top. There’s a big gap between third and fourth though as New Zealand have a winning percentage of 88.5, while Tonga’s is only 45.14.
New Zealand will be out for revenge after their shock 28-22 defeat by Tonga at the 2017 World Cup. Team news for this opening fixture has been dominated by the recall to the New Zealand squad of Benji Marshall. His last squad selection was back in 2012 but he’s been in great form of late and will form a halves partnership with Shaun Johnson.
Jahrome Hughes and Briton Nikora will both be making their Test debuts. Tonga also have a debutant with John Asiata playing after having previously represented Samoa. They will be without suspended prop Andrew Fifita.
Clash of Styles in Sydney
The other group game being played this weekend is in Group B. Papua New Guinea are taking on Samoa at the Leichhardt Oval in Sydney. It’s a fascinating clash of styles with the speed of the Papua New Guinea players up against the power of the Samoans. Papua New Guinea will attempt to use that speed to create gaps and scoring possibilities. Their opponents will be looking to wear Papua New Guinea down with their power.
Samoa are the highest ranked team of the two being three places above their opponents. It’s an important game especially with that big carrot of promotion to Group A next year for whoever tops Group B.
Samoa’s hopes of success have been boosted by the return of Martin Taupau. Their squad is packed with players who appear in the National Rugby League, far more than their opponents have. Papua New Guinea have won their last four matches with three of those being played against Fiji. The Cook Islands were their other recent opponents, and this is a big step up for them. Their opponents have been facing tougher opposition with recent losses to Tonga, England and Fiji.
After these games, the Oceania Cup resumes on October 25 when it’s the big match between New Zealand and Australia.