Australia and New Zealand to battle out Four Nations final
Despite being crushed by New Zealand 30-12 in the first round of the Four Nations, Australia are still odds-on 4/5 favourites with Coral to lift the trophy.
Since that defeat, Tim Sheens’ side have won both matches against England and Samoa to ensure they had a chance of playing in the final.
The coach has demanded more intensity from his forwards, if they are to avenge the humiliating defeat in their first fixture of the tournament. “We have to maintain the rage and not clock off,” Sheens said. “That was disappointing in the first games.
“We had our pants pulled down, it was tough to take. It is something we have worked very, very hard on.”
Star player Greg Inglis is the danger man for Australia and, in the victory over England, he pulled all the strings and got on the scoresheet. Inevitably, he is 8/1 to cross the whitewash first, while captain Cameron Smith is 6/1 to breach the in-goal area anytime.
However, in the wins since, the Australia pack have raised their game, and made it hard for their next two opposition, though New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney admits that playing the final at home is a slight advantage.
“But essentially it will come down to the 17 guys who take the field and execute what we’ve been training on during the week,” Kearney said.
“We understand the circumstance we are facing – for the Australian side in the first match the conditions were taxing and a lot of the Aussie guys hadn’t played for a while.
“We’ve watched Australia with their improvement the last couple of weeks. We know what we are in for.”
Jason Nightingale has been one of the players of the tournament so far for the Kiwis, and is 10/1 to put the first four points on the board, meanwhile, chief string-puller Shaun Johnson is great value at 2/1 to cross anytime.
New Zealand: P Hiku (Manly), J Nightingale (St George Illawarra), S Kenny-Dowall (Sydney Roosters), D Whare (Penrith), M Vatuvei (New Zealand Warriors); K Foran (Manly), S Johnson (New Zealand Warriors); J Bromwich (Melbourne), I Luke (South Sydney), A Blair (Wests Tigers), S Mannering (New Zealand Warriors, capt), K Proctor (Melbourne), J Taumalolo (North Queensland).
Replacements: L Brown (Penrith), G Eastwood (Canterbury Bulldogs), M Taupau (Wests Tigers), T Harris (Melbourne).
Australia: G Inglis (South Sydney); J Mansour (Penrith), M Jennings (Sydney Roosters), D Walker (South Sydney), S Mata’utia (Newcastle); D Cherry-Evans (Manly), C Cronk (Melbourne); A Woods (Wests Tigers), C Smith (Melbourne, capt), J Papalii (Canberra), S Thaiday (Brisbane), G Bird (Gold Coast), C Parker (Brisbane).
Replacements (from): B Cordner (Sydney Roosters), R Farah (Wests Tigers), A Guerra (Sydney Roosters), R Hoffman (Melbourne), B Hunt (Brisbane), D Klemmer (Canterbury Bulldogs), J Jackson (Canterbury Bulldogs).
Referee: P Bentham (England).