David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

League: Kangaroos forwards gearing up for huge battle

Kangaroos prop Matt Scott is taken high by opposite Jesse Bromwich. Photo / Getty Images
Kangaroos prop Matt Scott is taken high by opposite Jesse Bromwich. Photo / Getty Images

The Kiwis are preparing to launch another forward assault and expect the Kangaroos to meet fire with fire in tonight's transtasman test against Australia in Perth.

New Zealand have consistently dominated their green and gold rivals through the middle of the field in recent years with their dynamic rotation of forward power proving central to their 2014 Four Nations triumph and last year's Anzac test win in Brisbane.

Their wealth of size and brawn in the pack and on the interchange bench is matched with plenty of speed and flair through the backline but coach David Kidwell's side realise the clash will be won and lost up front.

"These big games are played down the middle," said assistant coach Willie Poching.

"The forwards have to really lay the platform and give the ascendancy and the control that's needed to really get the side on the front foot.

"This game won't be any different. It's going to be a war of attrition out there."

The Kangaroos managed to control an understrength Kiwis pack in their 16-0 Anzac test victory in Newcastle in May and coach Mal Meninga's forwards selections reflect an intent to meet the Kiwis' big men head-on.

While veteran forwards Corey Parker and Paul Gallen and incumbent prop James Tamou are missing due to concerns over age and form, Australia will rely on Cowboys prop Matt Scott, Raiders giant and test newcomer Shannon Boyd and Canterbury firebrand David Klemmer to pave the way to victory.

"Size is important but it's also having the ability to cope with getting on the front-foot and being on the back-foot at times," said Poching.

"I'm not sure what Mal's mindset is but everybody knows the size of our pack and what they present. We've just got to focus on being as dominant and as forceful as we can be."

Achieving that goal is imperative to the Kiwis' aim of providing time and space for halfback Shaun Johnson to weave his magic and create chances for his outsides.

"Everybody knows Shaun's a threat when he's got the ball in his hands and with a bit of space but we've got to try to create those opportunities by getting momentum and creating the space for him.

"If our big forwards are doing their job then I'm sure Shaun will get plenty of opportunities."

Kidwell named his side on Tuesday while Meninga kept a lid on his selections until the 11th hour on test eve, in a not-so-subtle attempt to keep the New Zealand camp guessing.

But the Kiwis remain unconcerned and insist the consistent and somewhat obvious nature of their starting XIII meant they were happy to reveal their line-up.

"Our focus has been on ourselves and trying to prepare as best we can and not getting too bogged down in being concerned with what the opposition is doing or what's going on in their camp," said Poching.

"The team was out there nice and early and we were comfortable. There was no reason for us to keep it a secret or try and keep it up our sleeve any more than we needed to."

The Kiwis capped their preparations with Friday's captain's run and last night enjoyed a traditional test dinner where the players were presented with their jerseys.

- NZ Herald

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