RLWC preview: Australia v France
Australia v France
Friday, 8pm (NSW time)
Having claimed the all-important win over England in the tournament opener, Australia can just about wrap up top spot in Pool A against a French side in desperate need of a win after going down to Lebanon in a virtual sudden-death clash in the nation's capital.
Mal Meninga's men weren't at their clinical best last week, but always appeared in control before Josh Dugan was able to put the result beyond doubt with a runaway try in the final minute.
It wasn't all smooth sailing for the Kangaroos with lock forward Jake Trbojevic ruled out for the rest of the tournament with a pec injury. He's been replaced in the No.13 jersey by Josh McGuire in what will be a new-look Australian side featuring four debutants.
Tom Trbojevic and Josh Mansour have been named on the wings, James Maloney replaces Cooper Cronk at halfback, Jordan McLean and Reagan Campbell-Gillard are the starting props while Wade Graham and Tyson Frizell have also been included in the run-on side in the back-row.
Premiership-winning Storm duo Felise Kaufusi and Cameron Munster - who played his first Queensland Maroons game this season - will make their debuts off the bench alongside best mates Aaron Woods and David Klemmer.
France had their chances against the Cedars, but were ultimately blown away late by a couple of pieces of Mitchell Moses brilliance.
They too have made some personnel changes with Olivier Arnaud named at centre, Remy Marginet has been picked at five-eighth while Maxime Herold is set to start in the front row.
Why Australia can win: The bookmakers have basically written the French off, and while there is little doubt Australia will win comfortably, tonight’s match won't be a walk in the park for the defending champions. For the debutants, the Canberra clash represents a huge opportunity to stake their claim for further call-ups down the track. Of the four rookies, expect Tom Trbojevic to cause plenty of damage on the wing and don't be surprised to see him drift infield looking for lazy defenders around the ruck.
Why France can win: There have been some monumental upsets over the years, but this would be David v Goliath-esque should France finish on top. Still, spooky things happen in Halloween week, and statistically speaking, the French have a one-in-two shot of winning. While they didn't get the result last week, there was a bit to like about the way France went about their business. Ball movement was the key to their game-play which allowed their strike weapons out wide to trouble the defence on a regular basis. Centre Bastien Ader was their standout player with two tries, a couple of line breaks and a team-high 172 metres in a losing effort.
The history: Played 59; Australia 43; France 14; Drawn 2. Australia will be looking to make it 15 wins on the trot against a French side that hasn't beaten the Kangaroos since 1978.
Match officials: Referee: Robert Hicks. Touch Judges: Chris Sutton and Mark Craven. Video referee: James Child.
Televised: Channel Seven – Live from 7.30pm (NSW time)
NRL.com predicts: It might take while for the new-look Kangaroos to click into gear, but once they do, expect them to run up a score. Australia will win by 58.