World Cup opener a litmus test: Cayless - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

World Cup opener a litmus test: Cayless

By Steve Jancetic 25/10/2008 05:11:24 PM Comments (0)

New Zealand will use Sunday night's opening World Cup clash against Australia to gauge their chances of finally winning the rugby league title.

Keen to erase painful memories of first half capitulations in their two most recent meetings with the Kangaroos, Kiwis skipper Nathan Cayless said his side was eagerly anticipating the Sydney Football Stadium match-up.

The Kiwis suffered a record-breaking 58-0 loss when they hosted Australia in Wellington last October before giving up a 22-0 halftime lead in eventually going down 28-12 in May's Centenary Test at the SCG.

"We're lucky that we get to play the Australians first up rather than have to wait until a semi-final or a final," Cayless claimed.

"We get a bit of a gauge as to where we sit.

"It's not do or die this weekend, but we do want to make a bit of amends for the Centenary Test match, we're all still hurting a bit from that game - we need to improve a lot on that performance.

"It's something that we've pretty much had drilled into us the last couple of weeks about beating ourselves - we don't want to do that tomorrow night.

"Silly errors that we did in the May 9 Test that contributed to our loss and gave the Aussies a bit of a jump on us ... we played catch-up pretty much after that."

New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney said the side would be much better prepared than they were for the Centenary Test, when halfback Thomas Leuluai had just two training sessions after making the 21-hour mercy dash from England to play in the match.

The Kiwis also welcome back star five-eighth Benji Marshall into their line-up, though Cayless said Kearney and coaching director Wayne Bennett had warned against expecting the injury-prone 23-year-old to do it on his own.

"We need 17 match-winners in the game, that's something that Stephen and Wayne have pointed out to us," Cayless said.

"We need every player to be a match-winner for us ... we can't rely too much on Benji, we need to lay a solid platform as a team."

Australian skipper Darren Lockyer said the Kangaroos had pin-pointed Marshall as the dangerman in the Kiwi line-up, but denied the Wests Tigers pivot would be in for any extra attention.

Marshall, whose confidence has grown on the back of a sustained run without injury, showed just how dangerous he could be with a superb performance in last week's 58-6 win over Tonga.

But that will be nothing like the pressure he and the rest of his Kiwi teammates will be put under in tomorrow night's match, Kearney determined to have his side ready to go from the opening whistle.

"The important thing for us is the start, the last few Test matches we've played against Australia the starts haven't been what we're after," Kearney said.

"In this type of environment it's really hard to peg back if you get behind."

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