Australia are red-hot favourites to complete a hat-trick of Rugby League World Cup triumphs but may not have it all their own way against Samoa.
The underdogs have improved throughout this tournament and top NRL players in key positions can help them to avoid an Old Trafford drubbing.
Punters can back Samoa with 18 points start at 10/11 and that is a tempting enough handicap mark to kick off our Rugby League World Cup final predictions.
Australia cruised through the group stage with wide-margin wins over Fiji, Scotland and Italy before brushing aside Lebanon 48-4 in the quarter-finals.
However, they were given an almighty scare in the semis, trailing 14-10 at half-time prior to shading an all-time classic contest 16-14.
Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga fired a warning that his side will be better for that experience.
“We haven’t had a match like that for a number of years and I felt that was one of the best Test matches I’ve been involved in,” said the vastly experienced Meninga.
“I think we can be better because of that. We can learn from that, but that’s what playing for your country produces – games where you’ve got to find that little bit extra in the way you play, or in your effort levels to get that victory.”
Australia’s forwards were far from convincing in that brutal battle, though, and the Kangaroos had to ride their luck at times, as the Kiwis had two second-half tries ruled out.
The favourites will probably find a way to get the job done again, but we feel suggestions of this being a blow-out are wide of the mark.
Looking at the 5/2 takes the eye as a value bet.
Samoa were tipped as dark horses to go all the way prior to the tournament but opened up with an embarrassing 60-6 defeat by England.
Matt Parish had insisted his team would need that outing, though, and they recovered in time to ease past Greece and France.
Tonga were then edged out 20-18 at the last-eight stage, with Samoa’s pack laying the platform for lots of possession in good field positions.
The Pacific Islanders needed a golden point drop goal from Stephen Crichton to shade England 27-26 at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium but were again worthy winners.
Penrith centre Crichton also scored two tries and kicked three conversions, while Panthers teammate Jarome Luai was superb at stand-off.
England did blow some opportunities to cross the whitewash but only got back into the game thanks to some homefield refereeing decisions.
“Inspiration, passionate – that’s what this team is about,” beamed Parish. “It’s an unbelievable effort from these guys.
“We’ve had a few things go against us, we’re down to the bare bones and these guys keep turning up for one another.
“Plenty of people had a lot to say four weeks ago about us going on planes home, but the pride and belief and the passion in this group is just phenomenal.”
Sydney Roosters full-back Joseph Sua’ali’i has been sensational during this tournament and the 19-year-old looks a future superstar.
Winger Brian To’o is another to watch, having scored two tries in Penrith’s NRL Grand Final victory over Parramatta.
The 24-year-old benefits from playing outside club teammate Crichton and is backed at 13/8 to touch down at any time here in our Australia vs Samoa predictions.
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