South Sydney Rabbitohs star Lachlan Ilias believes that Group A outsiders Greece can spring a few surprises at this World Cup – but France captain Benjamin Garcia insists his side will not suffer an upset.
The two sides clash tonight (Monday) at the Eco-Power Stadium in Doncaster, with victory essential for either to hold any hope of escaping a group that also features hosts England and Samoa.
Ilias, a 22-year-old halfback, made his Greece debut in their warm-up game against Bradford Bulls, which finished as a thrilling 34-34 draw.
Their strongest line-up finished the match with a thrilling comeback and Ilias, who qualifies for the Titans through his grandparents, said: “We weren’t expecting to play a full half but we were keen to get on after half-time and play alongside the boys we are likely to start with against France.
“It was a heavy pitch and we are used to dry pitches. We had a few sore bodies after the game but it was a positive experience.
“I think we can surprise a lot of people – we have a few players who play first grade and some second grade back in Australia.”
However, Garcia says that France will be in no mood to be on the receiving end of a shock.
The Catalans Dragons skipper was part of the squad that lost the opening game in 2017 to Lebanon when France finished winless from a group also featuring England and Australia.
“I know they’ve got some players from the NRL, they’ve got a good team,” said Garcia.
“In the last World Cup we played Lebanon and we lost. I take it like that (a lesson).
“For this one we will be more ready to perform.”
For the first time, France enter a World Cup with a squad packed with seasoned professionals who have been playing top-tier rugby in Super League.
Garcia said: “For the French team it was something great. It’s a shame Toulouse are going down because we can see players at the highest level in Super League is making France better. It’s the first time ever France have a full squad of professionals.”
France squad: Morgan Escaré, Arthur Romano, Samisoni Langi, Matthieu Laguerre, Fouad Yaha, Arthur Mourgue, Tony Gigot, Jordan Dezaria, Alrix Da Costa, Lambert Belmas, Benjamin Jullien, Paul Séguier, Benjamin Garcia, Eloi Pélissier, Justin Sangaré, Mickael Goudemand, Corentin Le Cam, Maxime Puech, Cesar Rougé.
Greece squad: Chaise Robinson, Siteni Taukamo, Terry Constantinou, Nick Mougios, John Mitsias, Lachlan Ilias, Jordan Meads, Robert Tuliatu, Peter Mamouzelos, Stefanos Bastas, Mitchell Zampetides, Nick Flocas, Billy Magoulias, Jake Kambos, Myles Gal, Sebastian Sell, Theodoros Nianiakas, Liam Sue-Tin, Aris Dardamanis.
The above content is also available in the regular weekly edition of League Express, on newsstands every Monday in the UK and as a digital download. Click here for more details.