Saturday 16 December 2017 / 11:52 PM

FOUR NATIONS WEEK 2: KANGAROOS’ 3 BURNING QUESTIONS

Australia made easy work of newcomers Scotland in week one, but head to Coventry to face the Kiwis after a tough week which saw them lose winger Josh Mansour to a torn ACL suffered at training.

We look at the major questions from a green-and-gold point of view ahead of the trans-Tasman Test this Sunday morning (AEDT).

Will softer lead-in hurt Australia?

With no disrespect to Scotland, last weekend’s match in Hull was more training run than Test match for the Kangaroos.

As expected, Mal Meninga’s men dominated every area of the game and weren’t made to work particularly hard for their points, while stopping them at the other end wasn’t too difficult either.

But what sort of preparation will that prove to be ahead of a clash against the battle-hardened Kiwis?

Six of Australia’s frontline players didn’t even take the field last weekend, raising questions about how fine-tuned their combinations will be.

The Kiwis on the other hand come off a gritty victory over England, which required them to be right up near their best both physically and mentally.

You can argue there is merit in both styles of build-up, and different teams and players will have their own takes on it, but you wonder if the draw hurts the Kangaroos a little this week.

Right game to rest Cronk?

Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga’s rotation policy makes some sense, and it’s good that each of his 24 squad members is going to get some game-time on tour.

But is this the type of game where you should be voluntarily keeping the NRL’s best player in Cooper Cronk on the sidelines?

Yes, Australia have taken care of the Kiwis without too much fuss in their last two Tests against them, but this result could end up deciding who makes the Four Nations final and who misses out.

While it’s unlikely Australia will struggle to advance to the final at Anfield in Liverpool, you can’t help but feel like last week’s Test against Scotland may have been a better one for Cronk to sit out.

The Kangaroos would have got the job done against the Bravehearts even if they had fielded their eighth best halves combination, but against the Kiwis the absence of Cronk might be felt that bit harder.

If Australia get the result then everyone is happy and Cronk is rested and fit for the England match in week three, and then presumably the final.

But if the Kiwis get up and manage a result then eyes will turn directly to Meninga’s selection decisions.

Will the Mansour injury prove a distraction?

Losing a teammate to a serious injury is never easy, but for it to happen at training in the middle of friendly fire must be devastating.

The Kangaroos have made no secret of how tough it has been for them this week, following an incident which saw Josh Mansour collide with Josh Dugan and suffer a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

The 26-year-old will miss most of the 2017 season as a result, but has remained in camp with the Kangaroos ahead of the Coventry match.

So much of the pre-game talk has been around the unfortunate incident, and it’s likely to still be on the minds of the Kangaroos come kick-off.

The Aussie squad has plenty of kids in it who won’t be used to dealing with these situations, so will that creep into the wider group and become a disruption?

Not to mention that Mansour was an absolute beast against Scotland and would have been a huge asset against the physical Kiwis. 

[YouTube – VAC 2016]

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