Kangaroos look forward to exacting retribution
AUSTRALIA'S fired-up forwards have vowed to restore their damaged reputation in Saturday's Four Nations final against a big New Zealand pack which outmuscled them earlier in the series.
The Kiwis took the first game of the tournament 30-12 in Brisbane last month when their aggressive forwards were led by big Jesse Bromwich, Adam Blair and giant young lock Jason Taumalolo, who smashed his way to 131 metres.
New Zealand's forwards ground out well over 100 metres more than Australia's pack but coach Tim Sheens changed his line-up last weekend with Josh Papalii joining Aaron Woods up front.
This allowed Sam Thaiday to team with Greg Bird as edge weapons - a tactic which worked well against the physically aggressive Samoan forwards in the 44-18 win.
Despite all the talk of New Zealand's big forwards, its combined pack weight of 636kg is only 15kg, or an average of 2kg a man, over the Kangaroos.
Thaiday admitted after the team's light run in Wellington he and the other forwards were hurting from being outplayed in Brisbane.
The Kiwis had finished over the top of an Australian side featuring five rookies and a makeshift front-row missing Matt Scott and James Tamou.
The Brisbane forward, one of the senior players in the side, said the group had improved considerably since the embarrassing 18-point loss at Suncorp Stadium.
"(We are) totally different," Thaiday said. "We've had a couple of tough games and we wanted to nail a few things against Samoa. They rolled over us in that second half, and it all started through the middle of the field. We've definitely come a long way since that first game in Brisbane."
New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney has been forced to make a change to his squad, with hooker Thomas Leuluai succumbing to a shoulder injury suffered last weekend in the tough 16-14 win over England in Dunedin.
It has presented South Sydney's Issac Luke, who sat out his club's NRL grand final win through suspension, an opportunity to finish the year on a huge high, with Kearney promoting him to starting No.9 opposite Cameron Smith, who takes his Test appearances into the 40s.
Despite winning all three lead-up games and having a far superior defensive record and playing at home, New Zealand goes into the final as $2.08 outsider with the Kangaroos $1.75 favourites with Sportsbet to win the Four Nations title.
THE SQUADS AUSTRALIA: 1. Greg Inglis, 2. Josh Mansour, 3. Michael Jennings, 4. Dylan Walker, 5. Sione Mata'utia, 6. Daly Cherry-Evans, 7. Cooper Cronk, 8. Aaron Woods, 9. Cameron Smith (c), 10. Josh Papalii, 11. Sam Thaiday, 12. Greg Bird, 13. Corey Parker. Inter (from): 14. Boyd Cordner, 15. Robbie Farah, 16. Aidan Guerra, 17. Ryan Hoffman, 18. Ben Hunt, 19. Josh Jackson, 20. David Klemmer. NEW ZEALAND: 1. Peta Hiku, 2. Jason Nightingale, 3. Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 4. Dean Whare, 5. Manu Vatuvei, 6 Kieran Foran, 7. Shaun Johnson, 8. Jesse Bromwich, 9. Issac Luke, 10. Adam Blair, 11. Simon Mannering, 12. Kevin Proctor, 13. Jason Taumalolo. Inter: (two to be omitted) 14. Lewis Brown, 15. Greg Eastwood, 16. Martin Taupau, 17. Tohu Harris, 18. Gerard Beale, 19. Bodene Thompson.