Aussies set for NZ ambush in Cup opener - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Aussies set for NZ ambush in Cup opener

By Steve Jancetic 23/10/2008 04:11:59 PM Comments (0)

Australia are bracing themselves for a good old-fashioned Kiwi ambush in Sunday's World Cup opener, with kamikaze centre Steve Matai the man the Kangaroos fear most.

Matai is seen as the key to keeping Australia's slick backline in check, the Manly premiership winner keen for an encore performance following his devastating defensive display in the Sea Eagles' grand final triumph.

And the Auckland-born 24-year-old said he would have no problem passing on some of Manly's grand final secrets in an attempt to nullify the Kangaroos, with Melbourne trio Billy Slater, Israel Folau and Greg Inglis all backing up for the Australians.

"I'm sure he's going to be out there to try and whack blokes," said Folau, who will again mark up directly opposite Matai.

"I've got to try and be careful in that area but I'm pretty confident going into Sunday that I can do the job.

"We're both representing our country so it should be a pretty physical game on Sunday.

"He's a good player and I'm sure he's going to be out there on Sunday night to try and perform well."

Matai was a thorn in the Storm's side on grand final day with his kick-chase game and harassing defence nullifying Folau and Slater in particular.

He claimed intimidating the opposition wasn't he went out of his way to do out on the football field, the fear in the eyes somewhat of a bonus.

"I like to play with passion, I love doing things with a purpose, be it the kick chase or getting out of dummy half and making a play or running the ball," Matai said.

"If it comes across as me trying to intimidate someone that's a bonus, it certainly makes my job a lot easier."

As for the sharing of trade secrets, Matai said there were no club allegiances when it comes to Test football.

"We're always pretty honest with each other if we've got tips on helping better our game, we're not afraid to go up to each other and say `look, we need to work on this, work on that," Matai said.

"That grand final, I think we can take a lot out of that defence, our defence was pretty good and hopefully I can take that into the World Cup and into the Kiwis camp."

Folau admitted his move to the centres in the Test side was something he had been looking forward to.

So far the 19-year-old has had to make do with a berth on the wing in his two Tests and three Origin games for Queensland, with the likes of rugby union defector Mark Gasnier and injured Brisbane star Justin Hodges standing in his way.

With those two players out of the equation, at least for this tournament in Hodges' case, the path is clear for Folau and 21-year-old Inglis to cement themselves as Australia's No.1 centre pairing for the foreseeable future.

"We're on different sides but it's going to be a pretty good centre pairing I think," Folau said.

"We're both young, we're both looking forward to it.

"I wasn't expecting to play centre to be quite honest, and now that I've got the opportunity to be playing there, I'm pretty stoked about that - I'm trying to make the most of it."

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