Kiwis ready for title defence

New Zealand will begin their Tri Nations Rugby League title defence this weekend when they face an Australian side looking to overcome a wretched start to end of season tours.

Kia ora brothers: The Kiwis lift the 2005 title
Kia ora brothers: The Kiwis lift the 2005 title

The Kiwis stunned a highly fancied side Australian side 24-0 to claim the last year’s title after finishing well off the pace in 2004.

Australian selectors have named five debutants in the side which represents a significant changing of the guard as the Kangaroos look to regain their dominance of international rugby league.

Ricky Stuart’s men have won only two of nine openers since 1990 in a series and among them lost last year’s opening Tri-Nations game 38-28 to New Zealand and drew 16-16 with the Kiwis in the 2004 version.

“It is important if we can get off to a flyer in regards to winning the game in New Zealand,” the Australian coach said.

New Zealand after winning in Sydney last year

New Zealand after winning in
Sydney last year

“It always gives the side a bit of confidence when you can get away with a good win in the first (game) of the series.”

Canterbury Bulldogs utility Reni Maitua joins Brisbane Broncos’ centre Justin Hodges, Melbourne Storm pair hooker Cameron Smith and winger Greg Inglis and Manly’s interchange forward Brent Kite as Australian newcomers in the first game.

It the highest number of rookies since the selectors chose five debutants for a one off test against Papua New Guinea in 2001. 

Australian selectors also broke with tradition by including Britain based centre Jamie Lyon of St Helens in the Kangaroos squad, a move panned in many sections of the Australian media.

The former Parramatta centre will join the squad after the first match due to his involvement in the Super League final.

Big year

Australian captain Darren Lockyer is aiming for a rare triple after he led the Brisbane Broncos to the NRL premiership, Queensland to State of Origin glory and now prepares for one last push in a long season.

“I guess two-thirds of the season are over, the State of Origin series, the premiership and now there’s one part to go,” he said.

“It’s been a great year, there’s no doubt about that but I just don’t want to get to the end of the year and think well I could have  finished the year off better.
“I don’t want to have any regrets after this tournament.”

South Sydney bound Kiwi prop Roy Asotasi, who has played just  one match in the past six weeks following a knee injury, is playing down New Zealand’s Tri-Nations’ win last year as a form guide for  this month’s series.
“We’re the defending the champions, but last year is last year,” Asotasi said.
“It’s a whole new side, a whole new squad. I’d like to think everyone will be focused on this year. Last year isn’t going to win it for us this year.”

Great Britain will be aiming to be more competitive after winning just one game when hosting last year’s series and will have extra preparation time to acclimatise before their opening engagement with New Zealand in Christchurch on October 28.
Australian-based Irish winger Brian Carney and prop Adrian Morley will be strengthening the British squad upon its arrival.
Oct 14 – New Zealand v Australia – Auckland
Oct 21 – Australia v New Zealand – Melbourne
Oct 28 – New Zealand v Great Britain – Christchurch
Nov 4 – Australia v Great Britain – Sydney
Nov 11 – New Zealand v Great Britain – Wellington
Nov 18 – Australia v Great Britain – Brisbane
Nov 25 – Final – Sydney

Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies

More from News
Most Read