Pressure on the kiwis
Stevo wonders if New Zealand can turn things around against Australia in the Four Nations final.
Last Updated: 12/11/10 3:55pm
There are two questions being bandied around over here with the first one being can New Zealand bounce back and beat Australia in the Four Nations final?
Australia are certainly in the driving seat after that comprehensive 34-20 win in Auckland and it is going to be interesting to see how New Zealand react. They really do need to do some rebuilding as not only did they let themselves down on the pitch but some of their fans let them down off the pitch with their drunken antics.
It was all in all a very embarrassing day for New Zealand rugby and I know that the players will want to make amends.
But this is a tough ask - Australia coach Tim Sheens has brought back his big guns for the final and they are really going to want to turn on the heat. It shows what talent he has at his disposal that they easily saw off the kiwis without the likes of Darren Lockyer and Billy Slater.
Willie Tonga and Luke Lewis also return after being rested for last weekend's match and Sheens has named Matt Scott and David Shillington as his starting props, with Tom Learoyd-Lahrs and Nate Myles on the bench. There is no place for Petero Civoniceva who by his own admission said he was not playing well enough to be included in Sheens plans.
For the kiwis they have made two changes with Greg Eastwood and Bronson Harrison handed starts. Eastwood is a real wrecking ball and New Zealand will be looking to him to really take the ball into the heart of the aussie forwards. Last week they just lost too much ball and put themselves under pressure. They really cannot afford to do that in the final. We all know the kiwis rise to the occasion.
Benji Marshall is the man to get them going though - he was pretty disappointed by his performance last week and blamed himself for a couple of the Australian tries. However he is just so dangerous with the ball and if he makes some breaks it will really raise the confidence of his team. He can't do it by himself though and the forwards really have to lay the platform.
I mentioned two questions and the other one is will Darren Lockyer retire after this game?
He has been a wonderful ambassador for the and there have been hints that he may call it a day. I for one hope he carries on playing - I would love to see him over here for the next four nations, but as my friend Bill Arthur points out - surely he would want to retire in Brisbane in front of his home fans rather than on a cold and raining night in Wigan? I think he will make the call after the final and the result could play a vital part in his decision.
Darrren Lockyer is the man for Australia but I am looking at Marshall to ignite the kiwis. We all know he is a brilliant player but we shall see how he handles the pressure and what he does to get his team into this game.
New Zealand have come out with all the right words this week saying the loss was a learning curve and they have worked hard on cutting down their mistakes etc. They will handle the pressure a bit better this time, but I think Australia will still have the edge over them and will record their third victory of the year over the kiwis. It is going to be a cracking game though!