Foran’s return a big threat to Aussie Test dominance

Greg Prichard Columnist

By , Greg Prichard is a Roar Expert

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    It has been two years now since New Zealand last beat Australia in a Test match, but it’s worth remembering that was also the last time Kieran Foran and Shaun Johnson were together in the halves for the Kiwis.

    They’ll be reunited for the mid-season Test against Australia in Canberra on Friday night and that makes New Zealand hugely dangerous, particularly when you consider their spine is completed by Roger Tuivasa-Sheck at fullback and Issac Luke at hooker.

    Tuivasa-Sheck hasn’t played for the Kiwis since that Test two years ago.

    The Test hasn’t had the publicity it deserves, but that is understandable because of the outcry over player unavailability for the final City-Country match in Mudgee on Sunday.

    But that will change in these last few days ahead of the game.

    New Zealand have lost four games in a row to Australia – all last year. It was 16-0 in the mid-season Test in Newcastle, then 26-6 in Perth ahead of the Four Nations tournament, 14-8 in a round-robin game in Coventry and 34-8 in the final in Liverpool.

    Jordan Kahu was the fullback for the Kiwis in all four of those games. Kodi Nikorama was five-eighth in the first game, Thomas Leuluai in the second and third games and Tohu Harris in the last match.

    New Zealand won the 2015 mid-season Test 26-12 in Brisbane. The result caused a rethink about the advancing age of the Australian side overall and Greg Bird, Luke Lewis, Nate Myles and James Tamou haven’t played for their country since.

    It was also the last match in charge for coach Tim Sheens, who resigned at the end of the year and was succeeded by Mal Meninga.

    Meninga has done a great job with the team so far. They are unbeaten under him and the highlight was their emphatic win in the Four Nations final.

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    He will have them ready to win again on Friday, but at the same time he will realise that this New Zealand team represents the greatest threat to Australian success since he took over.

    Halfback Jonathan Thurston is likely to be confirmed as in or out for the Aussies on Wednesday and that will obviously be an important development either way.

    Australia could still win without him, but he is obviously too good a player for their chances not to be affected if he is missing.

    The Kiwis will bob up with another win eventually – they always do. That win in Brisbane was their third victory in a row against Australia, stretching over 2014-15.

    Previously, the Kiwis won a game in 2010, another in 2008, two games in 2005 and another in 2003.

    The squad they have selected for this game is strong in both the forwards and backs and should be very competitive against an Australian side which has had a couple of injury setbacks in the forwards.

    The Warriors have improved in the NRL since Foran began playing for them and they have been able to field the same spine that is included in the New Zealand side.

    It was inevitable Foran would come straight back in for the Kiwis and his inclusion is a big factor in making this Test a must-watch game.

    Greg Prichard
    Greg Prichard

    Greg Prichard has spent all of his working life in the media, from way back when journalists were still using typewriters. He has covered rugby league, football, AFL and various other sports for News Limited and Fairfax newspapers and also worked for magazines, radio and pay television. Twitter: @gregprichard

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