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Foran’s return a big threat to Aussie Test dominance

Greg Prichard Columnist

By Greg Prichard, 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.

    mal-meninga-rugby-league-nrl-2016

    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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    The Crowd Says (14)

    • May 3rd 2017 @ 10:24am
      matth said | May 3rd 2017 @ 10:24am | ! Report

      Yep, I’ve got a bit of fear over this one. I think if Thurston is not 100% he is too big a risk and we should go with Maloney.

      I also hear Darius Boyd has a fitness issue. Hopefully Billy the Kid is on standby.

    • May 3rd 2017 @ 10:36am
      kk said | May 3rd 2017 @ 10:36am | ! Report

      If Billy does NOT play, this game is closer than $1.35/3.15.

      As is, the own line of +9.5 @ $1.71 on NZ looks the comfort way to go.

    • May 3rd 2017 @ 12:20pm
      Jeffrey said | May 3rd 2017 @ 12:20pm | ! Report

      I think losing Nelson is a big blow to the kiwis. I think the roos will win by 15.

      • May 3rd 2017 @ 12:45pm
        Stu said | May 3rd 2017 @ 12:45pm | ! Report

        Yeah a big blow. Taylor as a replacement is baffling, I hope hes nowhere near the side and they go with Bromwich, Packer, Blair and Taupau.

        Kenny Bromwich will make the bench but there are better 2nd rowers out there.

        • May 3rd 2017 @ 1:27pm
          Albo said | May 3rd 2017 @ 1:27pm | ! Report

          Whilst somewhat limited in attack, Elijah Taylor is a rock in defence around the rucks. He is just the type of player you would likely start in the early clinches of a Test match during the battle for forwards momentum. You need some balance to the pack with Bromwich, Packer, Taumololo, Taupau & Proctor good running types and with Blair, Taylor & Mannering having solid defensive qualities. I think the kiwi forwards look very strong, if they just get the balance right on the field, and their backline is a as good as I can recall in recent times. I give them a great shot at beating the Kangaroos in this one.

    • Roar Guru

      May 3rd 2017 @ 3:40pm
      Judge Holden said | May 3rd 2017 @ 3:40pm | ! Report

      The Kiwis are in with a good chance, that’s for sure. Whilst it is true that NZ will have their full strength spine back for the first time since they last beat Aus back in 2015, the Kangaroos pack is also significantly stronger. Klemmer and Fafita as starting bookends, ably supported on the bench with Frizell, J Trbojevic and, sigh, Thaiday. At least Thaiday lifts for representative matches, and I am at odds to recall a match in recent times where he has played poorly.

    • May 3rd 2017 @ 4:14pm
      Raugeee said | May 3rd 2017 @ 4:14pm | ! Report

      I have a hunch that the Kiwi side gave Kidwell a hard time last year – to test him out. A different story in a World Cup year this year. Even though the Kiwis lost 4 in a row last year – they never seemed out of any of the matches. Their young fit forward pack goes as well in the last 10 min as the first. Winning talisman Simon Mannering is back in the forward pack too. I’ll be cheering like crazy for the Kangaroos but I couldn’t resist the $3.40 for a NZ win that Betfair was offering.My prediction NZ to win 16 – 12 after trailing 12 – 6 at the 70 min mark.

    • May 3rd 2017 @ 6:56pm
      Stu said | May 3rd 2017 @ 6:56pm | ! Report

      The Kiwis run out of puff in about the 65th minute, but this is a real chance for them – Thurston isn’t fit, Merrin’s overweight, no Inglis – the Kiwis have a chance here, but fitness is always a worry.

      • May 3rd 2017 @ 7:50pm
        Raugeee said | May 3rd 2017 @ 7:50pm | ! Report

        I don’t know how you can say that. In the last 2 games that Australia won last year NZ outscored them in the last 35 mins. NZ were very poor last year and were still full of running. A Kangaroos team backpedalling in the final 10 min with a rampant Shaun Johnston? Yikes! Gives me shivers.

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