Australia coach Tim Sheens has admitted he is aware his team will be the firm favourites to beat an inexperienced New Zealand side in the upcoming Anzac Test but is preparing for a tough test from Kiwi players looking to prove a point. A strong Australian side will take on a youthful and inexperienced New Zealand team without a host of its star players.
While Sheens named an experienced 17-man squad containing 14 members of the Kangeroos World Cup winning squad from last November, All Blacks head coach Stephen Kearney has kept just five survivors from New Zealand’s World Cup squad, handing six uncapped players their first call-ups, including Warriors hooker Siliva Havili who has less than 10 NRL appearances to his name.
Despite the world champions preparing to go into the game as the overwhelming favourites with bet365, Sheens has made it clear his side won’t be underestimating a New Zealand squad containing a player many of the Australian squad won’t know much about in Havili.
“It worries me when you don’t know much about someone and the national coach picks him to play for New Zealand. They know the kid can play. You’re not going to get picked if you don’t have ability,” said the Australia head coach.
Kearney has been robbed of a number of his key players through injury, with Kieran Foran, Issac Luke, Frank Pritchard, Elijah Taylor and Thomas Leuluai all missing this game with injuries. As well as the injured stars, Kearney hasn’t been afraid to swing the axe on some big names, overlooking prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and back Sonny Bill Williams in order to have a look at some younger players.
“He’s blooding younger blokes and they’ll be enthusiastic and as the Warriors showed against Melbourne at the weekend you cannot underestimate what comes out of New Zealand,” Sheens said.
“With six debutants getting an opportunity they’ll be busting to play well. I think it’s going to be an intense game. I understand we’ll be favourites for this game, but it’s sometimes hard to play from in front and they have nothing to lose and throw everything at us.”
In contrast to his opposite number Sheens has made few changes to the squad that clinched the World Cup title last November in Manchester. In-form Parramatta centre Jarryd Hayne had been expected to be named in the squad only for a shoulder injury to ruin his chances of facing the All Blacks.
Canterbury centre Josh Morris has been given the nod ahead of Justin Hodges in perhaps the most eye-catching change, although Sheens made it clear the veteran Brisbane and Queensland star still had a future with the national side.
The Kangeroos head coach has made changes to his interchange bench with Cronulla’s Andrew Fifita dropped following his difficult start to the season, with Gold Coast’s Nate Myles replacing him. Sydney Roosters back-rower Boyd Cordner has been named ahead of Canberra’s Josh Papalii and will join fellow utility players Corey Parker and Daly Cherry-Evans on the bench.