Ahead of the 2017 Anzac Test we look at the three major talking points surrounding the Kiwis in the lead-up to clash against the Kangaroos at GIO Stadium in Canberra.
Can the Kiwis find some points?
Kieran Foran and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck are back, but will that translate into points for New Zealand? Friday night will mark two full years since the Kiwis last scored more than 18 points in a rugby league match, having failed to do so in their last nine games, one of which was against Scotland.
When playing Australia it’s even worse through that period, with 14 points their biggest haul against the green-and-golds since 2015. Their average against them in in their last four matches is just 5.5 points.
There have been some contributing factors – no Foran or Tuivasa-Sheck in any of those matches – but there can be no excuses in Canberra, where the Kiwis are fit and have a ready-made spine which comes in after several games together for the Warriors.
— Canberra Raiders (@RaidersCanberra) May 3, 2017
Can Packer produce?
Five seasons have ticked over since Russell Packer last put on a black jersey and now he has the opportunity to make the No.10 jersey his own heading into the World Cup.
With Ben Matulino still to come back into consideration, Packer needs to have a big game to ensure he is in the mix come the end of the year, and all he really needs to do is replicate what he has been doing for St George Illawarra this year.
He’s averaging 108 metres per game in the NRL and is yet to have a single match where he has run for fewer than 70 metres. The Kiwis want that consistent go-forward, so can the big guy from Foxton produce it on the biggest stage after a long absence?
Matulino, Tapine unlucky. Stoked for Russell Packer. #RoosKiwis
— Brad Joyce (@BradJoyce4) April 30, 2017
Will Kidwell get the interchange right?
David Kidwell is new to coaching at top-flight level, so it’s understandable that he isn’t going to be a polished product. But Tests against Australia, which generally these days go down to the wire, are no place for coaching mistakes.
Last year it was management of the interchange which Kidwell really struggled with. Who can forget the time Jason Taumalolo, who had just been named the best player in the NRL, was left to twiddle his thumbs on the bench for the first 26 minutes of the second half against the Kangaroos in Perth?
Once the Kiwis got to the UK for the Four Nations there were also two examples where Kidwell made interchanges in the final three minutes of the first half, bringing players – who didn’t appear at the time or post-match to be injured – off for a rest just before they were about to have a 10-minute break anyway.
You need every bit of help you can get to foot it with the Australian pack, and management of the bench will be vital.
— Stuff.co.nz Sport (@NZStuffSport) October 19, 2016