A matter of months ago, it would have been almost unthinkable. On Friday night, two of the game’s greatest fullbacks are likely to face off for their respective second-tier nations – in the halves.
Jarryd Hayne and James Tedesco have already set the World Cup alight for Fiji and Italy respectively; while Hayne has been Man of the Match twice as the Bati have overcome the USA and Wales, Tedesco scored a double yesterday in what was his first-ever senior game at five-eighth. It sets up a mouth-watering battle between the pair, who were NSW Blues teammates this year and who have a similar match-winning ability.
Following Italy’s 46-0 thumping of the USA, coach Cameron Ciraldo praised Tedesco’s efforts in the unfamiliar position.
"I thought [Tedesco] was really good… I thought he was really patient when he went out there, he was really calm and had some classy touches," the coach told NRL.com.
Hayne has been similarly dominant in the no.6 jersey – a position he’s likely to play full-time for the Titans in 2018 – and yesterday became the standalone record holder for most tries scored in World Cup matches. An outstanding individual effort fittingly saw the return of the Hayne Plane – and an early indication that the 23-time NSW representative is returning to form.
The next task for the pair will take place at Canberra Stadium on Friday night, when the Bati take on the Azzuri from 7:40pm AEDT. Italy will face a tough proposition to make it into the quarter finals, however; if they are to top their pool over Fiji, they must defeat them by at least 46 points. Teams will be listed for all World Cup teams tomorrow.