David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

Kiwis favourites for looming test: Thurston

Johnathan Thurston (left) during the NRL Nines announcement on Tuesday. Photo / Greg Bowker
Johnathan Thurston (left) during the NRL Nines announcement on Tuesday. Photo / Greg Bowker

Kangaroos playmaker Johnathan Thurston has downplayed Australia's Four Nations prospects and declared the Kiwis as favourites heading into next weekend's transtasman test in Perth.

"No, not at all," Thurston replied when asked if Australia were justified in wearing the favourites tag.

"They bashed us up in the [2015] last Anzac test before that so they're certainly the favourites, the Kiwis.

"Obviously the Kiwis are the title holders there [Four Nations]. They're the current holders of the trophy so it's an exciting time for Australian rugby league."

Both sides will assemble in Perth this weekend with new Kiwis coach David Kidwell appointing Melbourne Storm front-rower Jesse Bromwich as captain of a 24-man squad containing five rookies. Warriors backs David Fusitu'a and Solomone Kata, Penrith playmaker Te Maire Martin, and Canberra pair of back-rower Joseph Tapine and in-form wing Jordan Rapana are all in line to make their first appearances in the black and white jersey.

Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga has also injected some new blood into the green and gold line-up, with Roosters hooker Jake Friend, Sharks five-eighth James Maloney and Penrith skipper Matt Moylan joined by bolters, Dragons back-rower Tyson Frizell, Raiders prop Shannon Boyd, Sharks winger Valentine Holmes and Cowboys centre Justin O'Neill.

"There's experience and youth that Mal's picked in our side and it's likewise with the Kiwis squad," said Thurston. "They've got a fairly new coaching staff, as do we, so it's about getting preparations right for the Four Nations and it starts off next week."

The four-time Dally M winner is wary of his Cowboys teammate and Kiwis lock, Jason Taumalolo, who produced a barnstorming season to finish as joint-winner of this year's NRL Player of the Year medal, along with Storm and Kangaroos halfback Cooper Cronk.

"He's been outstanding all year for us and his progression has been coming for a while now and he's really found his feet.

"I'm extremely proud of what he's been able to achieve over a short period of time. He's starting to realise his potential."

- NZ Herald

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