Jonathan Thurston will guiding the Kangaroos in attack. Image courtesy of news.com.au
Last 5 Meetings
October 13 2012 – Australia 18 d New Zealand 10 at Townsville
April 20 2012 – Australia 20 d New Zealand 12 at Eden Park
October 28 2011 – Australia 26 d New Zealand 12 at Halliwell Jones Stadium (Warrington, UK)
October 16 2011 – Australia 42 d New Zealand 6 at Hunter Stadium
May 6 2011 – Australia 20 d New Zealand 10 at Skilled Park
Australia will be out to continue its domination of New Zealand in the annual ANZAC Test when the nations lock horns at Canberra Stadium on Friday night. Although the Kiwis beat the Kangaroos in both the most recent World Cup final and the 2010 Four Nations final, they have struggled in this fixture and were last victorious in 1998, when scoring a 22-16 win.
There were no bolters in the 18 man squad named by coach Tim Sheens on Sunday, with the Bulldogs Josh Morris in the squad as cover for Justin Hodges, who is still nursing a hamstring strain. The Broncos centre is one of five men returning to the squad after missing the Test in Townsville at the end of last season, alongside Brisbane skipper Sam Thaiday, Anthony Watmough, Luke Lewis and Kurt Gidley.
With Benji Marshall and Sonny Bill Williams injured and Jeremy Smith unavailable through suspension, New Zealand will field a relatively inexperienced team. New skipper Simon Mannering and second rower Frank Pritchard are the most experienced players in a squad containing eight players with five or fewer Test matches under their belt. Storm backrower Tohu Harris could debut after being named on a five man bench was drafted in to replace Smith, while Kieran Foran and Shaun Johnson are the halves.
Kangaroos winger Darius Boyd hasn’t set the world on fire at fullback for the Knights yet this season but takes full advantage of the opportunities that he gets on the wing in rep football. He has eight tries from ten appearances in the green and gold and was on the scoresheet in the most recent meeting between the sides.
Josh Hoffman has arguably been in career best form this season, having bagged seven tries in the opening six rounds of the NRL. He returns to fullback for the Kiwis and will relish the opportunity to have more freedom in attack.
Prediction – Australia last tasted defeat in this fixture 15 years ago and their domination over the Kiwis should continue in Canberra on Friday night. With less than a week to prepare for the match, the Kangaroos are at a distinct advantage having the ‘spine’ of Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith bring their combination from the Storm into camp, while New Zealand’s key position players have little or no experience together. Although they have won only three of their past 25 Test matches against Australia, New Zealand weren’t blown away in two low scoring matches last season and can keep it tight again. Australia 1-12
Click here to bet on International Rugby League matches