Australia beat New Zealand 32-12 in the ANZAC Test Match in Canberra on Friday night.
After the match the reaction from fans and the media was interesting. They talked about how strong the Kangaroo’s are and how easily they will win the World Cup at the end of the season.
Me….I’m not so sure about that….
The first half was really interesting. Australia started at a thousand miles an hour and it looked like the Kiwi’s would struggle to stay in the contest. A great offload by Matthew Scott saw Cooper Cronk score under the posts and the feeling of “Here we go…” was pretty hard to shake.
As the half played out though it is fair to say that New Zealand were the better team in the first half. Their ball security and dicipline was fantastic. Their kicking game was great. In fact, had the bounce of the ball not been against them all night, we would have seen the Kiwi’s go into halftime with a big lead rather than the 6-all scoreline they took to the sheds.
The second half was a completely different story and really, it showed the biggest difference between the two sides. The Kiwi’s need to work harder for the points they score than Australia does. Australia will pull out a length of the field try out of no where if you give them half a chance. The Kiwi’s need to grind the opposition down first and hope to be close enough in the last 20 minutes that all of that hard works starts to pay off.
Even accounting for the 20 point difference between the two sides, I saw enough to suggest that I’ll be tipping the Kiwi’s to go back-to-back and win the 2013 World Cup?
Why? Well read on and I’ll tell you!
First of all, you need to remember that this Kiwi’s lineup was missing a few key players that will add a lot to their team. If you throw in Benji Marshall, Sam Kasiano, Simon Mannering, Jeremy Smith and the line, they all add different things to the Kiwi’s that will just lift them and make them that little more dangerous. I don’t think Sonny Bill Williams will even be playing Rugby League come the World Cup, so I’m leaving him out of the discussion for now…
Marshall in particlular will help the Kiwi’s, especially when they have the opposition defensing their own try line. The Kiwi’s missed his slight of hand on Friday night.
Throughout the entire game on Friday night New Zealand did something I don’t think I’ve ever seen any other team do. They completely shut down Johnathan Thurston. Thurston was a non factor in this game, and not through a lack of effort. Every time he got the ball he would shut down with great defense. The New Zealand side took him completely out of the game by getting up on him, shutting down his time to think with the ball in his hands, not taking a single dummy all night and hitting hard with ball and all defense.
It was obvious that New Zealand had worked hard on this all week through their camp, and it worked. When you consider that many feel Thurston is one of the biggest differences between the two teams, it was something that really caught my eye.
Another thing to come out of this game was Australia’s terrible lack of confidence under the high ball. Any time a kick went up, Australia looked pretty average. They either let the ball bounce, knocked it or, or simply didn’t secure control of the ball when it hit the ground. The Kangaroo’s looked sloppy out wide and that to me suggest that we need to look at selecting either different wingers during the World Cup or looking to play some of our fullback options on the wing such as Jarryd Hayne or even Michael Gordon.
It was a weakness Australia normally never has and one that will be exploited in the World Cup.
New Zealand made almost all of thei best meters up the middle of the field in the ANZAC test match and Isaac Luke was fantastic throughout the entire game in working off the back of that. If I was Stephen Kearney I would be thinking about my options on the back of that work. A player like Kevin Locke would be deadly in and around the ruck area as the game draws on and the opposition starts to get tired, as we saw from the Australian side in this match.
New Zealand can’t go toe-to-toe with Australia in the backline, but there is no doubt that they can blast holes in the Kangaroo’s defensive line up the middle of the field. If they can get a second option out of dummy half to work with Issac Luke, New Zealand is going to be very hard to beat.
I come away from this game with one last thought…
I think it is time for Australia to consider playing Greg Inglis at fullback and moving Billy Slater to the wing.
Slater still has mistakes in him at test level and Australia can not continue to just overlook these issues and hope they won’t cost us yet another World Cup. I think at this level Inglis’ side is a real asset that needs to be exploited more, especially when you consider that Australia’s forward pack is not anywhere near the size of the New Zealand pack. I like the thought of Inglis getting the ball in his hands more and to have him putting the New Zealand forwards under pressure every time he runs the ball back.
It would be a bold move, but I think it is one Australia needs to make. This isn’t me saying that Slater isn’t a great player, I just think that Greg Inglis is the better player for Australia’s currently lineup right now.
Australia got taught a lesson in the 2008 World Cup. New Zealand had already shown they had arrived as a force at test level in 2005 and by 2008 Australia still hadn’t caught on to the fact that they couldn’t just turn up and claim easy wins any more. New Zealand took the World Cup Final on Australian soil and then again in 2010 when they won the Four Nations title.
Australia can not just think they can reward players with test jerseys these days. They need to pick the best team possible, no matter what state they come from and no matter which team win the Grand Final.
Australia needs to put together a team that can go out and win the World Cup. Right now, I see enough holes in their performances to think that New Zealand will be confident or retaining their World Cup title.
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com
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