The pool stages of the Rugby League World Cup are behind us and it’s time for the best eight countries in the world to fight for a spot in the semi finals.

Australia has cruised through the group stages of the Rugby League World Cup and should continue that through to the semi-finals. On paper, the Kangaroos side is far superior regardless of the pretend battle for the halfback position. Whoever Mal Meninga names – it will be Nathan Cleary – Australia will run out with the better 17. However, Lebanon have performed well across the last three weeks. They pushed the Kiwis in Round 1, took care of Ireland as underdogs in Round 2 and did what they needed to do to beat Jamaica in Round 3. They’re a relatively cohesive unit when measured against the other minnow nations and Mitchell Moses and Adam Doueihi ensure they’re well-organised and dangerous in attack. While Michael Cheika isn’t a typical rugby league coach, the uncertainty he brings to the Lebanon game plan is just what they need if there is to be an upset. While an upset is unlikely, there is enough talent in this side to keep it close if the Lebanon defence can hold up early.

Tip: Handicap – Lebanon +42.5 @ $4.33

England are flying. After thrashing Samoa in the Rugby League World Cup opener, they’ve barely broken a sweat in beating France and Greece. They were somewhat written off before the tournament. That had more to do with the unknown of the squad and the over-hype of the Samoan side more than anything else. In reality, this is a good England team with quality in key play-making positions playing behind a pack that can match it with the best of them. Add the home crowd element, and they’re going to take some beating. They’re sure to take a physical beating in this one. We know that Papua New Guinea will leave nothing out on the field. They’ll be well-prepared to compete with England beyond what is likely to be a firey opening 20 minutes, too. Where they have fallen behind after starting well in the past, the Kumuls spine can manage this game. Edwin Ipape, in particular, is in super form. England are overwhelming favourites but it’s worth remembering that it wasn’t long ago that the Kumuls beat Great Britain. Expect a strong start from Papua New Guinea but for England to go the full 80 minutes and pull away at the end.

Tip: Handicap – England -22.5 @ $1.90

The Kiwis haven’t moved out of second gear just yet. Unlike Australia who played at a ruthless intensity and looked to run up a score on their opposition, New Zealand took a cruisy approach. However, expect to see their intensity lift in this one. Their pack is arguably the best in the Rugby League World Cup and this is the game for them to use it. Match the size and strength of Fiji before a far superior spine creates points. In Brandon Smith, Dylan Brown, Jahrome Hughes and Joey Manu, the Kiwis can pile up points in a hurry if the platform is laid in front of them. Fiji, meanwhile, haven’t been all that convincing in the group stages. They didn’t provide too much resistance against Australia in Round 1, and while they handled Italy with ease in Round 2, Scotland made things worryingly difficult for Joe Rabele’s side in Round 3. It was a long time ago now, but New Zealand’s 4-2 loss to Fiji in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup will still haunt the players involved. The expectation is for the Kiwis pack to do the work early and set them up to start winning it late in the first half. From there, they should be able to kick clear and build a considerable lead through to full time.

Tip: Handicap – New Zealand – 30.5 @ $1.90

This is the one. The biggest game of the Rugby League World Cup so far. Mate Ma’a Tonga have been somewhat overshadowed by the hype and commentary around Toa Samoa. The Samoan side came into the tournament grossly overrated. They arrived in England with little experience playing with each other and looked every bit like an unfamiliar team while being thrashed in the opener. They’ve since done the same to Greece and France, but it’s difficult to get a read on them given their form against quality opposition. Tonga, on the other hand, are proven. They’ve pushed the top teams in the world if not beaten them in recent years and know how to navigate difficult periods of a close match. Their cohesion will be especially valuable in this one. Jarome Luai is in excellent form and the experienced half Samoa has been looking for in recent years. However, he requires a strong middle in front of him. He’s a downhill half and Tonga can go a long way to closing him down by dominating in yardage and forcing him to play on the back foot. Tonga’s strength is in their pack, and it directly impacts Samoa’s most dangerous weapon. Samoa are capable of an upset. This is one of the best Samoan sides we’ve ever seen. But Tonga are the proven 17 and hold an advantage in the coaches box. They should book their place in the semi-finals while covering the -3.5 line here.