Saturday 16 December 2017 / 11:56 PM

TEST PREVIEW: KIWIS’ 3 BURNING QUESTIONS

The end-of-year representative programme gets underway this Saturday night, with the Kangaroos taking on the Kiwis in a one-off Test before both depart for the Four Nations in England.

There will be plenty on the line, with the Bill Kelly Cup and trans-Tasman bragging rights at the forefront. Here are the three biggest questions for the New Zealanders ahead of the match in Perth.

Can Jordan Rapana perform without Joseph Leilua?

There is no denying Jordan Rapana deserves his spot in the Kiwis’ touring squad after the season he has had at club level.

Across 26 rounds for the Raiders the 27-year-old led the competition in line breaks at an average of one per game, and was second for tackle breaks (127) and tries scored (20).

But he did all that with the Dally M Centre of the Year, Joseph Leilua, standing one position to his left.

TEST PREVIEW: KANGAROOS’ 3 BURNING QUESTIONS

So much of what Rapana did came after a clever offload or a defender-attracting carry from Leilua, and it remains to be seen whether or not he can emulate that with a different style of centre who he isn’t so accustomed to.

If he can play somewhere near his 2016 club form then he will lock himself in as a must-have on one wing, but if not then he is sure to come under pressure from youngsters Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and David Fusitu’a.

Which backrower can stake their claim before Mannering returns?

The quality and depth of the Kiwis’ backrow for this weekend’s game is impressive, and it’s only going to get better when Simon Mannering returns from injury.

The former captain should be ready to go for New Zealand’s Four Nations-opener on October 29, and when he is fit it’s a no-brainer that he plays – meaning someone in the 17 this weekend will be making way.

The form of Melbourne duo Kevin Proctor and Tohu Harris is hard to argue against, and the fact that they played right through to the NRL grand final works in their favour in terms of match fitness.

But Mannering isn’t the type of player you bring off the bench, meaning one of them may have to drop out of the starting 13.

At this stage Parramatta enforcer Manu Ma’u is the man most at risk of falling out of the team altogether, while veterans Lewis Brown and Adam Blair are hardly safe either.

TEST PREVIEW: KANGAROOS’ 3 BURNING QUESTIONS

Is the Perth curse just a Kiwi club thing?

New Zealand league and the city of Perth don’t tend to mix well – despite the massive crowd support the Kiwis enjoy in the west.

In eight trips there the Warriors are yet to win a single game, with second-half fades a theme in several of those matches.

But will it be the same for the national side? The Kiwis have had a much better preparation than you could ever achieve during a club season, having arrived in Western Australia six days before the match.

The fact that the majority of the New Zealand squad live in Australia all year is also a factor which probably works in their favour.

The Warriors have come close a couple of times, producing almost every conceivable way to lose over the years – though a number of excuses have been put forward.

Travel is the obvious one – it takes about seven and a half hours to fly from Auckland to Perth – while time difference and conditions have also been blamed for the Warriors’ abysmal record.

The venue adds another dimension to what is already a highly-anticipated match.

The New Zealand v Australia Test will also be the first rugby league international ever played in Perth, while it should be a sell-out if the crowds the Warriors attract against Sydney opposition can be used as a guide.

TEST PREVIEW: KANGAROOS’ 3 BURNING QUESTIONS

[YouTube – jp6 Montages]

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About the author

Corey Rosser

One of CBS’s newest contributors, Te Aroha product Corey is the New Zealand correspondent for NRL.com, the editor for the excellent new site Kiwi League Central, and a guru of the local Auckland rugby league scene.

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