Kiwis keen to win mid-year league Tests - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Kiwis keen to win mid-year league Tests

By Steve Jancetic 05/05/2011 06:49:14 PM Comments (0)

It's the one black mark working against their bid to be rated the world No.1, and New Zealand have turned to familiarity to try to help break a 13-year hoodoo against their trans-Tasman rivals.

For all their success in winning three of the past four tournament finals against the Australians, New Zealand have struggled mightily in the on-off mid-year clashes between the two sides.

Their one and only victory came 13 years ago in the inaugural in-season clash, and not only have they not won in subsequent years, they have largely failed to even make it competitive, with 2010's 12-8 win to the Australians the first time the Kiwis had lost by less than 16 since the second contest in 1999.

The Kangaroos have adapted to the short preparation for the mid-year clash with relative ease, a factor no doubt helped by Queensland's State of Origin dominance, which has translated into green and gold jumpers almost turning a shade of Maroon.

"If there's one thing that the Australians have done - certainly over the last few years, is that consistency in selection," Kiwi coach Stephen Kearney said.

"Thirteen Queenslanders in the side, they play together over a six-week period over the middle of the year and we're trying to do that with our selection process.

"... (they) have probably been together for five or six years and, when they come into camp, things work for them a little bit easier. You get four days to prepare for a Test match.

"We're trying to get that. We're working towards that."

For Friday night's Test on the Gold Coast, the Kiwis have made just four changes to last year's Four Nations-winning line-up, with Kearney ignoring talents such as Frank Pritchard, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Frank-Paul Nuuausala in naming his squad.

"The feeling's a little bit different in terms of having the same players for a longer period of time now," skipper Benji Marshall said.

"In the past, it's always been chopping and changing, who's playing halfback or who's playing here, whereas now, we've got the depth to cover a lot of positions and, in the key positions, we've had the same players playing there."

That continuity is not lost on the Australians, who conversely have made ten changes from the Four Nations final.

"Their teams have probably looked different every Anzac Test, where we've been more stable," Kangaroos skipper Darren Lockyer said.

"That's changing a bit now.

"In any tournament, where the Kiwis have been together for any longer than a few weeks, they've always finished strongly as we've seen the last few years."

The Kiwis could yet be forced into one late change, with Adam Blair racing the clock to overcome an ankle injury.

Blair did not take part in Thursday's final training run after rolling his ankle in Wednesday's session on a boggy surface at a local Gold Coast school.

Kearney indicated a decision on his availability was likely late on Thursday night, but he refused to rule out having his most experienced forward on the paddock.

"We'll give him to as late as possible to give him a chance for tomorrow night," Kearney said on Thursday.

"He's a lot better this morning, so we're hopeful."

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