BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 24: Valentine Holmes of Australia makes a break to score a try during the 2017 Rugby League World Cup Semi Final match between the Australian Kangaroos and Fiji at Suncorp Stadium on November 24, 2017 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

5 things we learned from World Cup semi finals

The quality gap is still large

Fiji’s incredible win over New Zealand last weekend gave real credibility to claims that the gap in quality between the top tier nations and those leading the chasing pack was closing. Although I’d certainly argue that it has, the Kangaroos 10 tries to one win over Fiji proves there is still a long, long way to go.

The Bati were packed with NRL talent, some of which can lay claim to being genuine superstars but man for man, the Kangaroos are in a world of their own.

Hayne and Vunivalu would walk into rep sides across the world but when the Roos are stacked with the premierships elite, any weakness will be exploited in a big way.

Fiji needs to be playing more internationals, it’s the only way the gap will close. Hopefully, Hayne and co are made available for any future fixtures allowing those around him to benefit from his experience and talent.

I doubt anyone can say anything negative about the Fijian World Cup efforts, for mine it has been one of the real highlights of the tournament. That said, ultimately they were beaten by 48 points in the semi-final. That says more about the talent within the Kangaroos ranks more than anything, but it shows the work that needs to be done by tier-two nations.

England still fail to fire

England has made a World Cup final for the first time in 20 years. Their only blemish in this world cup was a first-up competitive loss to the Kangaroos in the tournament opener.

Despite an almighty scare in the final few minutes of their semi-final clash with Tonga, they bossed that game for 75 minutes and deserve their place in the final this Saturday night.

That said, we are still yet to see England really fire. They were pretty good against PNG and had comfortable wins against Lebanon and France, but they’re yet to produce anything that will worry too many Roos fans.

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Even England coach Wayne Bennett admitted they probably haven’t done enough to show they are capable of upsetting the Kangaroos in the final.

Is this is a case of the English being the best of the rest, or have they timed their run perfectly to shock the rugby league world at Suncorp? You’d have to suggest it’s a case of the former, but the law of averages suggests they’ll have one performance where everything clicks. Could it be on Saturday?

Valentine Holmes keeps getting better and better

I wrote last week that I believe Holmes to be the best winger in the world. Considering he scored six tries opposite the only man to threaten that statement in Vunivalu, I don’t see any reason to change that thought process now.

His six tries were not a case of catching the ball and falling over the line. His positioning on Friday night was picture perfect. He ran for 245 metres, made four line breaks, and caused chaos for the Fijian defence all night.

He broke his own international try-scoring record just seven days after posting five tries against Samoa.

His instincts and ability to position himself in try-scoring positions is years ahead of his experience. He dead set could have scored eight or nine if not for an errant pass and a Gagai dummy.

The thought of a potential weekly Dugan/Holmes right edge is scary.

Jason Taumalolo is special

Everyone knew it prior to the tournament kicking off, but the efforts by Jason Taumalolo in this World Cup have taken his star to a whole other level.

There is no sane argument that can be offered up to suggest he is anything other than the best forward in the game right now. Suggestions he may be the game’s best player aren’t too crazy.

He probably won’t win the Golden Boot award given he is opposite Cameron Smith, who is having one of the greatest seasons in living memory, but I doubt anyone would begrudge him the award should it go his way.

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The way he turned the game in the final ten minutes on Saturday evening was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. The entire momentum changed the second he stepped back onto the field.

That break he made in the final minutes to set up a heart-stopping last 90 seconds summed up his entire tournament. He was almost unstoppable at times. He was purely unstoppable at others.

Talk that a ten-year $1 million a season deal could be a bargain sums it all up.

This is the greatest World Cup in my lifetime

I’m calling it now; this is the greatest Rugby League World Cup in my 30+ years of being a fan of the game of rugby league.

The Tongan story, the Fijian attacking masterclass, the scenes in the stands in PNG. Who could forget the rise of the Cedars? The pre-match festivities. Huge upsets!!! Cracking games.

This World Cup has had it all.

Unfortunately, most games in the competition can be akin to men vs boys as big scores have been run up, but the games have been far more competitive this time around.

Tonga and Fiji shocked the world by defeating the Kiwis and set up monster semi-finals as a result. Despite the strength of their squads, few expected anything other than a repeat of the three-team competition we have become used to.

Usually, it’s a case of waiting til New Zealand vs England in the semi before the real action begins, but this tournament has seen highlights and quality games the likes I certainly have never seen before.

I’m sorry to see it come to an end. Regardless of the result on Saturday night, this tournament will be remembered for a long, long time.

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