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Kiwis not daunted by Kangaroos pack

By Todd Balym 06/05/2008 08:09:23 PM Comments (0)

New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney insists his side won't be daunted by Australia's brutal forward pack and have the potency to wreak havoc in the middle of the park on Friday night.

Australia's fearsome pack of forwards - led by Carl Webb, Willie Mason, Paul Gallen and Michael Crocker - has given the Kangaroos the hard-nosed edge normally reserved for New Zealand's man mountains in Friday's Centenary Test at the SCG.

The Kiwis boast their own imposing forwards led by Sonny Bill Williams, but Australia clearly have the battle won when it comes to the rough stuff with their pack boasting more than double the NRL suspensions, 57 weeks to 25, than New Zealand.

But Kearney, who finalised his starting side by cutting David Kidwell and Lance Hohaia, says his men will work to their strengths and look to impose themselves in the middle of the ruck on Friday.

"We will be looking at utilising the strength we have," said Kearney.

"We have got some handy forwards in there that can create a bit of havoc around the ruck."

Kearney says he has yet to finalise who will actually start on Friday, but has named Roy Asotasi and Nathan Cayless as his run on props with Williams, Simon Mannering and David Fa'alogo in his backrow.

South Sydney rookie Issac Luke will start at hooker, while Jeremy Smith, Dene Halatau, Adam Blair and Frank Pritchard were named on the interchange.

The rookie Test coach said cutting Kidwell and Hohaia had been one of his toughest decisions since assuming the job.

"It's hard to leave out David Kidwell and Lance Hohaia," said Kidwell.

"Lance has probably been playing as good a footy as I've seen in his career at the moment.

"And Kiddy what he brings to the team in terms of leadership was a difficult decision.

"(But) we felt the side we've chosen best represents what we want to try to do on Friday night so it is a shame, but they've taken it really well."

Halfback Thomas Leuluai is due to arrive in camp from England on Wednesday, but even before Kearney has his full squad in camp questions have been raised over who is actually coaching the Kiwi side.

High-profile assistant Wayne Bennett led most of the session but Kearney defended the role the former Australian Test coach had within the team.

"If you come down to Melbourne (Kearney's NRL club) and watch our training you will see that Craig (Bellamy - head coach) doesn't do a great deal," said Kearney.

"We planned it out quite some time ago. (Bennett) was going to look after the defence side of things and that's what we did today, we worked on our defence."

Skipper Asotasi confirmed Bennett was drilling the players purely on defensive structures, an area of concern considering the side conceded 58 points in last year's mauling from the Kangaroos.

"The disappointment of losing that last Test 58-0 and we're really working on our defence and that's something Wayne and Stephen Kearney are doing really well with the boys," said Asotasi.

"We're trying to get that right first and everyone is taking that on board."

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