New Zealand face off with Australia in the second game of a Four Nations double header at Coventry’s Ricoh Arena on Saturday. The Aussies currently top the tournament table on points difference with the Kiwis tied in second. Both sides picked up wins in the first round of matches and will be looking to build on their earlier victories.
Last time out
New Zealand edged past England in their Four Nations opener following a Shaun Johnson drop-goal on 65 minutes that made it 17-16 to the tourists. Jordan Rapana also starred for the Kiwis, scoring two tries to help his side to a crucial opening win.
Also in round one, Australia went top of the table after a 54-12 thrashing of Scotland. Star half-back Cooper Cronk and wing Josh Mansour both scored a brace against the Bravehearts, although the latter will be unavailable against New Zealand through injury. The victors were far too strong for Scotland, blowing them away within the first fifteen minutes; a feature of the tie that made victory all the more impressive considering the absence of Johnathan Thurston and Greg Inglis as well as hooker Cameron Smith for half the game.
Players to watch
For the Kiwis, Jordan Rapana will be hoping to add to his tally of two tournament tries with more against the Kangaroos. The winger was one of the standout performers in his side’s victory over England and has a chance to impress again in Coventry.
Australia’s Greg Inglis is one try away from his side’s record of the most tries scored by an Aussie in Test matches vs the Kiwis – a title currently held by Darren Lockyer. Another player who was dropped for the game against Scotland was Johnathan Thurston, who returns to the side looking to make a big impact against his opposition.
These two sides met prior to the Four Nations tournament, where Australia came out 26-6 winners. But in more competitive matches between the two this decade, New Zealand beat their rivals three times between October 2014 and May 2015 – a run that included a victory in the 2014 Four Nations final.
While there have been some close match-ups between the teams, there have been hugely biased scorelines in the past – namely Australia’s 34-2 victory in the 2013 World Cup final at Old Trafford.
If New Zealand can match the intensity of Australia and get some tries on the board early on, they could well go on to win this game.
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