How Each Team Can Make the Four Nations Final
The 2014 Four Nations is fast proving to be the greatest tournament of its kind since the event's inception in 2009.
In fact all four participating countries can still make the tournament decider heading into the final round robin fixtures, and alternatively, each nation can also miss out on the big dance.
Even underdogs Toa Samoa, who have proven worthy competitors despite losing to England and New Zealand, can still make the final if results go their way.
With the Kiwis set to take on England in Dunedin and Australia fighting the might of Samoa in Wollongong, a scintillating weekend of football beckons with all roads leading to Wellington.
1st – New Zealand: 4 points (+20 points differential)
If they win? Hello Four Nations final. The same applies if they secure a draw.
If they lose? If the Kiwis lose by nine points or fewer they will be playing in Wellington next weekend. If they lose by nine points exactly they'll be tied with England on for-and-against, but would advance on percentages with the stronger defensive record of the two teams. However, if New Zealand loses by 10 or more points then England will overtake them on the ladder, leaving the Kiwis relying on the Kangaroos not making up points difference between the two against Samoa.
2nd – England: 2 points (+2)
If they win? England will be hoping to win by 10 points or more to ensure their place in the final. A win by a smaller margin would still have them below New Zealand on the ladder, meaning they would need Australia to lose to Samoa or fail to make up the points difference. For example, an eight-point win for England would take them into the final if Australia beat Toa Samoa by fewer than 24 points.
If they lose? It's probably curtains. A defeat or a draw for England would leave Australia needing to win by any margin to make the final, so the Brits would be praying for a shock Toa Samoa victory over the Kangaroos. But it would have to be a narrow victory; if Samoa win and leap England on points differential, then England and Australia would miss out on the final.
3rd – Australia: 2 points (-14)
If they win? The Kangaroos' -14 points differential is their biggest problem. If New Zealand beat the English on Saturday night, then any Australian victory would see the Kangaroos leap over England and into the final. The same goes for a draw in the New Zealand-England match. But any England victory would require Australia to win and win big – they currently trail England on for-and-against by 16 points (a margin that would increase with an England win) and trail New Zealand on for-and-against by 34 points.
If they lose? If Samoa pull off an upset win then Australia will miss a first tournament final for the first time in 60 years unless England lose by 17 points plus whatever margin Australia loses by. In the same vein, if the Kangaroos and Toa Samoa draw then England need to lose by 17 points for Australia to qualify.
4th – Samoa: 0 points (-8)
If they win? The Samoans need New Zealand to beat England on Saturday night to have any chance of snatching a place in the final. A 10-point differential currently separates England and Toa Samoa, so the Samoans would need to make up the difference in order to advance. If the Kiwis beat England by 10, any Samoan victory would send them through. On the other hand, if England beat the Kiwis or the two teams battle out a draw, then Samoa will be eliminated no matter the result on Sunday.
If they lose? They depart the tournament with their heads held high.
Story first appeared on NRL.com