Four Nations Week One Previews

The Four Nations finally start next week as Australia and New Zealand look to tune up over the next few weeks with an eye on the final.

We’ve had a couple of big name injuries this week, but hardly crushing blows.

I had heard on the radio that PNG would be training at Blacktown today. I was going to head out and get a few pictures for the web site, but do you think I could find any information anywhere on where or when they were training?

No. Awesome promotion to promote the game there!

I’ll hopefully be heading out to Parramatta Stadium to watch Australia take on PNG so lets see what I can do as far as some “Exclusive” pictures for the web site. First On Nine, Watermarks across the middle of them all, damn I’m good, look at me, look at me!

Sorry, a touch of the Channel 9’s there.

Anyway, lets look at the games this week, what to expect and while you’re at it, vote on the poll on the right hand side of the web site. Who is the best player in the world?

Australia vs Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea have selected a side based on political issues within the game at the PNGRL. That will hurt their cause, but they will still put up a solid fight.

Australia have had 3,742 players pull out of the squad due to injury, and have lost Jarryd Hayne at the last moment one top of all that, however they should easily win this one.

It will be tough early on, as it always is against PNG, but as they game goes on expect the higher fitness levels of the Kangaroo’s to be a huge difference between the two teams. Thats not a knock on PNG by the way, we have all heard the stories this week about how little many of them earn and that Rugby League for most PNG players is just for pure enjoyment.

I’ll be interested to see how Cooper Cronk plays in this game, I want to see him really take over and steer the team around the park. Lockyer, we all know what he can do, he doesn’t need to prove anything in this match. But I think we need to see Australia put in more than just a workmanlike performance in this one, they need to show they have their shit together with a big match up against a top class opponent ahead of them.

New Zealand in two weeks time.

For Papua New Guinea, they will just want to go out and not be beaten by a big scoreline. I fear they will however. The Prime Ministers XIII is one thing, but playing Australia in Australia is another.

There have been slow ticket sales for this game and I find it ironic that the ARL has been promoting the crap out of the preceding Samoa vs Tonga match. See, these games between Pacific Islands nations are big draws, as long as it suits the ARL anyway…

New Zealand vs England
England are usually lucky against New Zealand in that the Kiwi’s love to play the game down at England level. The big problem I see this time around is that, the Kiwi’s didn’t do that against Samoa last week, and it would have been very easy to get into a game of basketball with the Samoans.

New Zealand were impressive last week while England looked comical as they gave up an 18-0 lead at halftime and were lucky to get away with just a draw against the New Zealand Maori.

The media is making a lot about the loss of Adrian Morley but to be honest, its not that huge. Sure he has experience of playing against world class opponents, but he is a shadow of the player he once was.

I expect the Kiwi’s to manage the early English onslaught without many problems. England will get frustrated, they will fall back to bad habits, and as the Kiwi’s warm to the task they will start to pull away.

The interesting thing I find with this game is, if the Kiwi’s come out and smash England, what frame of mind will that put the Pom’s in heading to Australia to take on the Kangaroos?

England need to show something here. If they come out and get thrashed, a young side, new captain, new coach, then you have to ask what direction English Rugby League is going in, even the optimists among you.

I need to see Sam Tomkins step up in this one, but more importantly, I need to see that England are up to speed as far as their defense goes. Last week against the Maori, it was tracig out wide, and as soon the the Maori threw anything more than five hit ups at the Poms, they were torn to shreds.

I think New Zealand will just be happy to get the win here and hope Benji Marshall gets through the game uninjured. They do need to get one of their kickers firing thats for sure, they can not afford to leave points on the table with failed kick conversions from this point on.

The Kiwi’s put a marker down last week and they will be keen to put in another big one this weekend. That’s bad news for England.

Samoa vs Tonga
There is not much you can really say about this game. Samoa got a run last week, Tonga go in cold. I would have my money on Tonga at the moment when you consider how terrible the Samoan fitness looked last weekend.

I loved attending the last game these two played in Western Sydney, where there is a massive Islander population. Seriously, you need to experience the atmosphere of such a game just once, it stacks up to Suncorp for the 2008 World Cup Final, Old Trafford for the 2006 Grand Final, State Of Origin, NRL, Super League….it is very, very special.

So, a great weekend of footy ahead. My balls are already wet with anticipation!

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