Sport

England almost certain to face Papua New Guinea for place in semi-finals

England will almost certainly face Papua New Guinea in the Rugby League World Cup quarter-finals after a day when the lineup of the other three last-eight ties was finalised, including a mouthwatering showdown between heavyweights Tonga and Samoa.

Shaun Wane’s side have won all three of their games so far to finish top of Group A. They will square off with Papua New Guinea on Saturday in Wigan providing the Kumuls do not lose against Wales by more than 22 points, after Cook Islands were beaten heavily by Tonga in Middlesbrough to end their chances of reaching the knockout stages.

Tonga laboured through their opening two group wins but Sunday felt like the day both they and fellow Pacific side Samoa finally arrived in the competition, as both recorded convincing wins to book their places in the quarter-finals. Unfortunately for the pair, only one of them can make the semi-finals due to the fact they will face each other in what promises to be the standout tie of the last eight.

Tonga obliterated Cook Islands, awakening from their early tournament slumber to score 16 tries in their 92-10 win at the Riverside Stadium. Meanwhile, Samoa – beaten 60-6 by England just a fortnight ago – came through their winner-takes-all game with France. Their 62-4 victory confirmed second place in Group A behind England and booked their tie with Tonga in Warrington next Sunday.

The only issue left to decide is England’s opponents in the last eight. But that will be settled in the final game of the group stage on Monday night in Doncaster when Papua New Guinea face a Wales side who could yet squeeze through to face England – though to do so they would have to record a shock victory by a sizeable margin.

Lebanon will face the reigning champions, Australia, on Friday night in the first quarter-final after they secured second place in Group C with a 74-12 win over the debutants Jamaica, who finished bottom of their group. It means Michael Cheika will be in Huddersfield on Friday trying to coach the Cedars through to the semi-finals, before heading to London less than 48 hours later to coach Argentina’s rugby union side against England at Twickenham.

The winners of Australia versus Lebanon will face either New Zealand or Fiji in the semi-finals at Elland Road, while the side that emerges through the fascinating match between Tonga and Samoa will take on the winner of England’s quarter-final at the Emirates Stadium. And barring a surprise victory from a Wales team who have not won a World Cup game since 2000, the hosts will have to defeat Papua New Guinea to get to the final four.