League: Kiwis have edge over Kangaroos for Perth Test

Jason Taumalolo will be a key figure for the Kiwis in their test against Australia in Perth tomorrow night. Photo / Photosport
Jason Taumalolo will be a key figure for the Kiwis in their test against Australia in Perth tomorrow night. Photo / Photosport

Australia should not be favourites for the Perth Test.

That might seem strange but it's undeniably true.

Despite boasting talent across the board, the form guide says the black-and-whites have the better history heading into Saturday night's Four Nations warm-up.

After all, New Zealand have won three of their last four matches against Australia - a pair of victories in the 2014 Four Nations and a thumping win in the 2015 Anzac Test firmly put the Kiwis in the box seat of international rugby league.

The Kiwis are at the top of the world rankings. Pretty comfortably as well - they are further ahead of Australia (2nd) than Australia are ahead of England (3rd).

New Zealand don't have the depth of Australia but when they're at their peak you need to batten down the hatches.

A series loss to England at the end of last season and a 16-0 defeat to Australia in May took a little of the shine off but there were extenuating circumstances.

In the England series, injuries forced New Zealand to roll with a halves combo of Kodi Nikorima and Peta Hiku which is ... not ideal.

In May, the circumstances were similar. Shaun Johnson returned but was partnered in the halves again by Nikorima while Lewis Brown packed down at hooker and Tohu Harris was forced to the centres.

Regardless of who they play in the halves or backs, their forward pack is filled with wrecking machines who will run riot if you aren't at your absolute best.

There's Jason Taumalolo, the best forward in the world and Jesse Bromwich, the best prop in the world. Plus Kevin Proctor, Tohu Harris, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Martin Taupau (who is on the bench if you can believe it) and Adam Blair.

These are the monsters that your parents warned you about.

It's not like the backs and spine are filled with bums either. Issac Luke is back and so is Shaun Johnson. Shaun Kenny-Dowall is coming off a career-best year as is Jordan Rapana.

The bookies currently have New Zealand as nearly 4/1 outsiders, but this is an even-money game.

Australia have the edge man to man in the backs, particularly with the late inclusion of Greg Inglis. A proven performer in this arena and a 10-year veteran of the Kangaroos, Inglis has an imposing strike rate of 28 tries in 35 Tests.

The Kangaroos also boast an edge in the spine because Darius Boyd, Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith are usually good enough on a bad day.

But the match will be won, as these matches often are, in the middle. Can the lighter Australian pack match it with the black-and-white monsters? Aaron Woods will be missing and apart from Matt Scott the Kangaroos middle forwards will be light on experience.

Trent Merrin, who is expected to lock the scrum, has just one Test to his name. Shannon Boyd and Tyson Frizell have none.

If Australia are to regain the number one spot in the RLIF rankings they need these rookies to step things up and hold the fort against the giants from the Land of the Long White Cloud.

AUSTRALIA v NEW ZEALAND

Saturday, October 15

Venue: nib Stadium, Perth

Kick-off time: 4:50pm (local time), 7:50pm (AEDT)

TV details: The match will be shown live on Sky Sport 2 from 9:30pm
.
Betting: Australia $1.40, New Zealand $3

Australia (possible): Darius Boyd, Valentine Holmes, Greg Inglis, Josh Dugan, Blake Ferguson, Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk, Shannon Boyd, Cameron Smith, Matt Scott, Matt Gillet, Sam Thaiday, Trent Merrin. Interchange: Michael Morgan, Boyd Cordner, David Klemmer, Tyson Frizell.

New Zealand: Jordan Kahu, Jason Nightingale, Solomone Kata, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Jordan Rapana, Thomas Leuluai, Shaun Johnson, Jesse Bromwich (c), Issac Luke, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Kevin Proctor, Tohu Harris, Jason Taumalolo. Interchange: Lewis Brown, Martin Taupau, Manu Ma'u, Adam Blair, Joseph Tapine, Gerard Beale.

- news.com.au

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