COACH Tim Sheens has dismissed suggestions Australia could be disadvantaged by having a comparatively easier run to the Rugby League World Cup final than their biggest rivals.
While reigning champions New Zealand and fellow tournament heavyweights England face off in Saturday’s semi-finals, title favourites Australia will meet Fiji for the second time in the tournament.
Fiji booked a ticket to Saturday’s double header at London’s Wembley Stadium with a 22-4 quarter-final victory over Samoa on Sunday, to repeat their feat of reaching the last four at the 2008 World Cup.
Australia defeated Fiji 34-2 in a Group A clash in St Helens a fortnight ago, a win that followed a tournament-opening 28-20 victory over England and preceded thrashings of Ireland and the United States.
Sheens’ men have not conceded a try in their past three games and they are expected to be untroubled in reaching the final, but the coach is not worried that New Zealand or England will be getting a better hit-out for the final by playing each other.
“We’ve already played them (England). You’ve got to beat whoever is in front of you and then you’ve got to be ready,” Sheens said.
“It’s about the intensity you take into every game.”
Sheens said the focus heading into recent matches had been about maintaining intensity for a full 80 minutes.
“You put your foot on the pedal and you don’t take it off,” Sheens said.
“Not play until halftime and then release the foot and have an easy second half.”
Australia have been strong in the second halves of their past three games, increasing their lead by at least 18 after halftime in each match and not conceding a point.
New Zealand and England have not quite been as consistent in putting games away, with the Kiwis in particular taking their foot off the gas in second halves against Papua New Guinea and Scotland.
Fiji clearly have the biggest mental barrier to overcome of the four semi-finalists, needing to find a way to reverse the result of their group stage defeat to Australia.
That match was played at night in strong winds and heavy rain but conditions should be more favourable at Wembley and that could spell trouble for the Bati after the Kangaroos produced their most-polished attacking performance of the tournament against the Tomahawks.
By Liam FitzGibbon (AAP)