Off-Field Problems No Distraction At RLWC

By Brian Lowe 

Off-field player shenanigans did not have any influence on match outcomes in round two of the Rugby League World Cup, but they were still on fans' minds this week.

The story that captured the most headlines involved Italian teammates James Tedesco and Shannon Wakeman, when the latter allegedly punched the former at a bar because he thought Tedesco was flirting with his girlfriend.

However, the pair later waived it off saying there was nothing in it and then teamed up Sunday as the Azzuri shut out the USA 46-0 in a Pool D contest in the northern Australian city of Townsville.

REPLAY: Italy vs. USA — Available in Canada, Uruguay, Chile, and Asia (outside of Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Japan)

Elsewhere, Scotland has sent three players packing for misconduct, including captain Danny Brough. The trio of Scots — including one named Johnny Walker, and no, that’s not a joke — were reportedly too drunk to board a plane in New Zealand.

And France hooker Eloi Pelissier has also been sent home for breaking team curfew after Les Chanticleers’ first-round loss to Lebanon in the Australian capital Canberra.

Warrior Rivalries

All the off-field distractions aside, round two produced some memorable moments, and none more so than the pre-game rituals before the All-Pacific showdown between rivals Tonga and Samoa on Saturday at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton, New Zealand.

In what can best be described as a stunning display of cultural heritage and passion, both teams performed their traditional war dances simultaneously while facing each other. Both then finished by applauding the other to show their appreciation.

REPLAY: Samoa vs. Tonga

The match finished with all players praying together in a circle after Tonga had muscled through for a 32-18 victory to stay unbeaten.

Still in the shaky isles, New Zealand poleaxed the Scots 74-6 in the other Pool B matchup in Christchurch, with Kiwi halfback Shaun Johnson scoring 22 points to become the all-time leading points scorer for his country.

REPLAY: New Zealand vs. Scotland

Roos On The Hop

The round kicked off Friday night in Canberra, where Australia used home-field advantage to blast France 52-6 in Pool A. Kangaroos back-rower Wade Graham was the star of the show, notching four tries to equal an Australian record set by Gorden Tallis back in 2000.

Despite the home team taking the spoils, it was French fullback Mark Kheirallah who made the highlight reel by scoring the most scintillating try of the night when he scooped up a loose ball near his own line and ran the length of the field to score France’s only try.

England Iffy, PNG Rolls, Wales Wilts

The other Pool A heavyweight England posted a 29-10 win against Lebanon, but the Lions struggled to find their rhythm and didn’t really impress. Even their head coach, Wayne Bennett, said they need to do better.

England winger Jermaine McGillvary has to answer a biting charge before round three after Lebanese skipper Robbie Farah alleged he was bitten in a tackle.

Papua New Guinea again thrilled its home crowd in Port Moresby, although the team was severely tested by a gritty Ireland in a Pool C matchup Sunday.

The Kumuls hung on for a 14-6 triumph but had to wait for a 78th-minute try by Watson Boas to seal the deal.

In Pool D, Fiji thrashed Wales 72-6 in Townsville to wrap up the round. The Hayne Plane scored again to move into the outright lead with most World Cup tries at 14.

Quarterfinals Beckon

So, as we move into the final pool stage, several countries have already stitched up places in the quarterfinals.

Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, PNG, and Fiji are all assured of making the playoffs, while England, Ireland, Lebanon, and Italy are on the cusp.

The rest, including the United States, Samoa, Wales, France, and Scotland, all need a win and a prayer if they’re to have any chance of progressing. All of them have awful points differentials which will make it tougher to qualify even if they do post third-round victories.

Aside from the games themselves, though, a couple of trends have emerged over the first two weeks of #RLWC2017. There have been sellout crowds at grounds in New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, but fan numbers have been disappointing at matches in Australia.

The flip side is that TV audiences in Australia have been better than expected — an example being the Australia-France game drawing more than 2 million viewers.

Watch the Rugby League World Cup LIVE on FloRugby

Round 2 results:

Australia 52, France 6

New Zealand 74, Scotland 6

Tonga 32, Samoa 18

England 29, Lebanon 10

PNG 14, Ireland 6

Italy 46, USA 0

Fiji 72, Wales 6

Subscriber Switchover From Rugby Channel To FloRugby Finalized

USA vs. Scotland: Behind The Scenes Of Eagles' Upset Victory

All existing Rugby Channel subscribers now have their information transferred over to FloRugby.

Mike Friday Might Just Have The Right Mix At World Cup

Dad Inspires Eagle Martin Iosefo

Take a look at the USA Men's Sevens team's roster for this weekend's Rugby World Cup Sevens and you'll get a look into what head coach Mike Friday likes in his Eagles—speed, height, balance, and versatility.

First Class Mexico Beat USA South U19s In RAN

Alex Chura And Charlie Green Celebrate Celtic's Win

The 2018 RAN U19 Championship was in Mexico City this year, and with fewer teams than the normal championship. This year the tournament was played as a round-robin style competition, instead of like past years where two pools would provide a finalist.

Injury Forces Kelter Out Of Rugby World Cup 7s

Recovery And Snacks For USA 7s Team

USA Women's Sevens star Alev Kelter has been ruled out of the Rugby World Cup Sevens due to injury.

Mike Friday Doesn't Like The RWC Bye, So What Is He Doing About It?

Mike Friday Is Happy His Team Is 4-0, But Wants More

USA Men's Sevens head coach Mike Friday has a plan to handle the fact that his opening game at the Rugby World Cup Sevens this weekend in San Francisco will be against a team that already has a match under its belt.

Join PRO Now to Get Unlimited Access to FloRugby!

Join Now

Already a PRO Member? Log In

Positivity And The Apex Panther: Key To USA South Women's RAN Win

Future USA South Women’s Panthers will have big shoes to fill as the 2018 squad dominated RAN 10s this past week in Mexico City with ball possession and positivity from their coach.

Indiana University Takes Huge Step With Coach Hirings, Endowment

College 7s Men D1 Plate SF Indiana vs Wisconsin

Indiana University’s men’s rugby program has hired a full-time director of rugby and a new full-time men’s 15s head coach as a new endowment initiative is building speed.

USA Men Name Roster For Sevens World Cup

Ben Pinkelman Ready To Win RWC 7s

SAN FRANCISCO, CA. — Last time they were on home soil, the Men's Eagles Sevens won the Cup Final at the USA Sevens in Las Vegas, and USA Men's Sevens head coach Mike Friday will be hoping  the lineup he just named will do the job once more, this time at the Rugby World Cup 7s in AT&T Park in San Francisco.

Why Girls Select-Side Numbers Are Dropping And What We Can Do About It

Join PRO Now to Get Unlimited Access to FloRugby!

Join Now

Already a PRO Member? Log In

Redhawks vs NorCal (GJV)

The road to hell, they say, is paved with good intentions, and while a mistake in rugby won't bring you damnation, we do have a problem to talk about.

Ontario Arrows Announce Plans To Join MLR

The Ontario Arrows Rugby Club has announced that it intends to join Major League Rugby in 2019.