Michael Burgess

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

League: Smith confident but wary

Australian Cameron Smith makes a break against New Zealand's during a rugby league Four Nations tournament, Eden Park, Auckland.Photo / AP
Australian Cameron Smith makes a break against New Zealand's during a rugby league Four Nations tournament, Eden Park, Auckland.Photo / AP

Australian captain Cameron Smith is quietly confident heading into tonight's test, though admits he is wary of the "world's biggest halfback."

Smith is not referring to a sudden weight gain by Benji Marshall or Kieran Foran but rather the freakish ball skills of giant Kiwis prop Sam Kasiano.

The front rower, who tips the scales at over 130 kilos, impressed many in the NRL this season with his ability to catch and pass at full pace.

"If you look at the way the Bulldogs played this year [Sam] Kasiano was a huge threat with the ball - he was a 130kg halfback playing with the footy. He's the world's biggest halfback."

"He's got great skill as well as the ability to run over blokes so there is a double threat there and we need to be aware of that. Weight wise he is certainly the biggest [player]I have played against."

Going right back to the 1988 World Cup final the Kangaroos have a long history of talking up their opponents - only to come out and clinically dismantle them - but Smith seemed sincere in his praise.

"There are a lot of things we need to think about defensively and we need to be switched on, particularly through the middle with guys like [Adam] Blair and [Sam Kasiano].
Both Smith and coach Tim Sheens also pinpointed Kiwis hooker Isaac Luke, who has consistently troubled the Australians in the past.

"Isaac Luke is a huge threat especially if there is any sign of a quick play the ball," says Smith. "He caused a lot of trouble in the NRL finals and he's a great player with great instinct. Our bigger thing is to control those big men and minimise the speed of the ruck otherwise we will be in trouble.

"We have picked two dummy half players (Cameron Smith and Robbie Farah) partly to negate the effect of Luke," added Sheens.

"He's a crucial player for them and we have to make sure we shut him down."

Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney has chosen not to include a second dummy half specialist, instead gambling on Elijah Taylor being the back up hooker to spell Luke. Taylor has some experience in the role from his junior days but wasn't convincing for the Warriors this year when used on the few occasions he was used at dummy half.

- APNZ

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