Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Gray Matters: Strong show by spine can send Roos to bunker of gloom

Kiwis coach David Kidwell has to make sure common sense and sound judgment bind his decisions rather than emotion. Photo / Photosport
Kiwis coach David Kidwell has to make sure common sense and sound judgment bind his decisions rather than emotion. Photo / Photosport

A backbone of immortals binds the Kangaroos who have not lost since Mal Meninga took over as coach, are on a four-game run against the Kiwis and ready for duty tonight in a Canberra stronghold.

That theme is a strong thread in conversations across the Ditch which acknowledge the improved firepower in the Kiwi side but cannot see anything except a result for the green and golds. Injury absences of Matt Scott, Aaron Woods, Greg Inglis and Jarryd Hayne shaves the choices but the Kangaroos have a deep selection well.

You've heard the chatter along the lines of: "Maaaate, ya can't go past Darius Boyd, Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith, they'll boss you blokes like Turnbull has turned the thumbscrews on Bill English. Your guys might hold on for a while but when the pressure goes up another notch you'll stumble in that intensity."

Australia is searching for transtasman winter sporting redress as it seems the only fight left in their rugby is in-house.

Diversion from that ongoing canker and some of the unseemly mid-year contract deals in the NRL is on the request list with all points zeroing in on Canberra.

A wobble at training from Boyd and uncertainty about Thurston's fitness soon changed into a thumbs up from both and buoyant discourses about the triumph awaiting the Kangaroos and remorseless captain Smith in his 50th test.

One commentator brought a theory that Smith played with such insight he would plan moves for the final stages of the game before he'd reached halftime. The pundit was serious ... and an Aussie.

He might like to look at the Kiwi spine of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Kieran Foran, Shaun Johnson and Issac Luke and give a nod to the influence they can exert in this test. They have become familiar with the nuances of each other's play this season at the Warriors which can compete with the test-hardened combination from the Kangaroos.

Boyd Cordner runs off the edges and brings a high-quality overall game but that can be subdued by the thunder from Jason Taumalolo if Luke and company find the right channels for his impact.

There'll be questions about the temperament and off-loading judgment from props David Klemmer and replacement Andrew Fifita and those doubts have to be raised early by the Kiwi duo of Jesse Bromwich and Russell Packer.

Impact from the bench and the timing of those intrusions to staunch some dramas or add to the pressure will be crucial. Those decisions are coach David Kidwell's domain and an area of uncertainty for the Kiwis.

Kidwell is fresh to this coaching lark and has to make sure common sense and sound judgment bind his decisions rather than emotion. He lacks the experience of Meninga but has sound backup from Steve McNamara with his knowledge of the Warriors and his background at the Roosters, Great Britain and England.

Scan the sides for a deal-breaker and you could settle on a moment from Martin Taupau or Michael Morgan from the bench but Josh Dugan lurks as the greatest danger to Kiwi hopes.

Dugan's broken field running backed by his pace and ability to squeeze an offload have to be shut down for the Kiwis to reverse the trend and send the Kangaroos to share Super Rugby's bunker of gloom.

- NZ Herald

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Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

The latest commentary and analysis from senior rugby writer Wynne Gray. Wynne has been covering the All Blacks for more than 27 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

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