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Rugby League World Cup: England v Samoa preview

The game England coach Shaun Wane has been waiting for takes place on Saturday as his side take on Samoa in Newcastle.

A packed St James' Park sets the stage for the hosts to try and lay down a marker against a physical yet skilful Samoan outfit.

Later in the day, champions Australia kick off their campaign for a 12th title when they face Fiji at Headingley.

Wane aware of Samoa threat

WhatEngland v Samoa, Rugby League World Cup
WhereSt James’ Park Newcastle
When14:30, Saturday 15th October 2022
How to watchBBC1
OddsEngland 6/5, Samoa 4/6 

If England were hoping for an easy start to the tournament, they have been handed anything but and Wane has declared the Samoans "one of the strongest squads" at the tournament.

A change of eligibility criteria has helped the Samoans and Tonga especially, with this arguably the finest generation of players they have ever had.

Included in their squad are six of Penrith's Premiership winning team, while their back-line looks set to be lit up by Sydney Roosters' teenage starlet Joseph Sua'ali'i.

In fact, they have frightening firepower out wide, with North Queensland Cowboys speedster Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow another omnipotent threat, while they have quality in the halves through Brisbane's Anthony Milford and Penrith's Taylan Mai.

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England also have NRL quality, boosted by Roosters' star Victor Radley who recently changed his allegiance from Australia and Wane may look to use his energy at hooker when Micky McIlorum requires a rest.

England are a talented side and warmed up with a 50-0 win over Fiji. However, Samoa could be the real deal and it is not difficult to see them going better than their -2.5 handicap at 1/1.

Young can be a breakthrough star

If England are to threaten Samoa, they will need to match them up front but it is out wide where there is the most excitement.

Discarded by Huddersfield, winger Dom Young has excelled over the last two year in the NRL, providing light relief for an underperforming Newcastle Knights side and marked his international debut against the Fijians with a try and two assists.

He has been included in the matchday 19 ahead of Ryan Hall and his NRL knowledge and obvious star quality make the Dewsbury-born three-quarter one to watch. At just 21, and with speed and size on his side, he can match the Samoans in most facets.

Young is 5/4 to score a try and will be itching to both prove his quality and add to the questions surrounding the Giants' methods when it comes to retaining talent!

Champions unlikely to be troubled

What Australia v Fiji, Rugby League World Cup
Where Headingley, Leeds
When 19:30, Saturday 15th October 2022
How to watch BBC2
Odds Australia 1/200, Fiji 20/1 

While England's fans will be hoping for a big showing at the tournament, Australia's supporters will expect them to go all the way.

The NRL remains the dominant competition in the world of rugby league and is headlined by homegrown Australian stars.

However, Australia have not played an international game of rugby league since 2nd November 2019 and come into the tournament with some fresh combinations.

This being the case, Mal Meninga has chosen to stick with the tried and tested Daly Cherry-Evans at half-back ahead of Nathan Cleary, who has just led his Penrith team to back-to-back NRL titles.

Even so, it seems improbable that the Fijians will test the Aussies in Leeds and the handicap is currently pitched at -38.5. The champions are 10/11 to eclipse that, as they did when these two last met in the 2017 semi-finals, a 54-6 win for Meninga's men.

Fiji warmed up for the tournament with that 50-0 defeat to England but do have talent, namely in hooker Api Koroisau who was arguably the best dummy-half in the NRL in 2022.

They do lack consistency across the field, though. That is in stark contrast to Australia, who still have Valentine Holmes among their number. The 27-year-old managed a tournament-best 12 tries in 2017 and is 12/5 to go over for two scores or more on Saturday.

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