Australia v New Zealand - Four Nations Final Preview

Australia v New Zealand
Westpac Stadium
Saturday 6:45pm

For many, the combatants of this year’s Four Nations Final were a foregone conclusion well before a ball had even been kicked – and they were right. What they hadn’t banked on though was one of the most hotly contested international rugby league tournaments in recent memory, that saw the emergence of Samoa as a force, the re-emergence of England, and the further bolstering of the Kiwis.

After an entertaining tournament, we come back to the two teams that started it all in the form of Australia and New Zealand.

Rabbitohs players, Greg Inglis and Dylan Walker, will play in the clash, with both players resuming the positions they have occupied in all three matches so far in the tournament. Inglis will wear the number one jersey, while Dylan Walker will play in the centres wearing jumper number four. The two will take on fellow Rabbitoh Issac Luke, who will line up at hooker for the Kiwis.

The Australians come into the match having experienced a forgettable week that saw a handful of players struck down with a virus, inevitably forcing a re-shuffle in the sides training schedule.

But skipper, Cameron Smith, is confident that his side is ready for the clash and that each player knows his job.

“As far as preparation goes it’s been a bit different for us this week,” said Smith.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a positive given that we’ve had six or seven blokes battling a virus – two of those guys are our starting halves in Cherry-Evans and Cooper-Cronk, so it hasn’t been ideal. But we trained yesterday as a squad.”

The Kangaroos went down to the Kiwis in the opening match of the tournament by 30-12, a performance that Smith stressed the need to improve upon.

“There were areas apart from our defence that we needed to address after that first game and I think we’ve done that,” said Smith.

“We’ve improved in both matches that we’ve played from the first game, so that’s a challenge – to play even better this week against the Kiwis.”

Kiwi coach Stephen Kearney is under no illusions as to the task that lays ahead of him and his team, with the mentor pointing to Australia’s improving performances throughout the tournament.

“We understand the circumstance that we’re facing,” said Kearney.

“With the Australian side in the first match, they had two that didn’t go back on in the second half and the conditions were pretty taxing over in Brisbane.

“For us, we’ve watched the Australians in terms of their improvement over the last couple of weeks – a real tough performance against England and then also a wonderful match against Samoa. We know what we’re in for tomorrow night.”

Shot at History

Rabbitohs and Kangaroos fullback Greg Inglis will line up for his 33rd Test in the green and gold and will have the opportunity to equal Reg Gasnier in Australia’s all-time Test try-scoring ranks after grabbing a double against Samoa last week. Inglis is now just one try behind the Immortal on 27 tries and if his form is anything to go by, could very well etch his name onto the scorecard.

Look to Inglis to inject himself into the Kangaroos backline, or simply quite simply, expect the unexpected, as he pops up to take advantage of the most minute of opportunities.