Australia and New Zealand re-ignite their rivalry this Saturday with a one-off test match to be played at Mt Smart Stadium. Kick off begins at 4:45pm and Australia are the clear favourites in the betting odds at the moment. The Aussies will look to continue their dominance of the Kiwis as they’ve won the 5 last meetings.
It’s a whole new era for the Australian representative team as the likes of Slater, Smith, Cronk and Thurston have retired. But it will provide the younger generation with opportunities to impress. Starting at the back, James Tedesco has been rewarded for an outstanding season and will lineup in the #1. Latrell Mitchell is fast becoming the best centre in the game after a huge 2018. He was instrumental in the Blues Origin series victory and the Roosters Grand Final result. Tom Trbojevic will lineup as the other centre and forms a speedy combination with Valentine Holmes. In the halves, Luke Keary gets his chance to impress after Cameron Munster withdrew for personal reasons. Keary won the Clive Churchill Medal and was awesome to watch during the Roosters run to the Grand Final. Daly Cherry-Evans is the halfback and will be looking to solidify his spot in this team. The forwards are strong as usual with Klemmer and Cordner leading the way. Jordan McLean had an injury interrupted season but should be fresh for this game. Damien Cook will be important at hooker as he’ll look to dominate the middle of the park as usual. The bench is looking strong as well with the versatile Ben Hunt, Woods for backup and the two workhorses - Jake Trbojevic and Tyson Frizell.
New Zealand will be looking to build form before they head off to England for an important series. After their 36-18 loss in Denver against England last year, they’ve made a host of changes to the team. The likes of Shaun Johnson, Jesse Bromwich and Kevin Proctor all return. I love the work of Brandon Smith for the Storm and he’ll debut at #9. At just 23 years old, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak will take on the captaincy role in place of the injured Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. Losing RTS will be a tough blow for the Warriors after his outstanding 2018 season saw him earn the Dally M Medal. The key to this game for the Kiwis will be in the halves. Shaun Johnson and Kodi Nikorima will need to lead this team well if they’re looking to overturn a bad record against Australia.
The betting has Australia as the warm favourite and it’s hard to argue with that. In this 5 game winning streak against NZ, they’ve outscored them by a massive margin of 120-34. Since 2010, they have met in New Zealand on 3 occasions and Australia lead again, 2-1 in the head to head. In the full history between the two sides, Australia has the wood over NZ with 100 wins from 135 games played. In terms of this matchup, New Zealand are missing a few important players that should comeback to hurt them. Australia’s outside backs are looking really dangerous on paper. Mitchell, Tedesco and Holmes are all coming off superb NRL seasons. They were also some of the best players in State of Origin. Not to mention, Damien Cook’s outstanding year in the NRL and Origin. So I do see Australia winning by 8 or more points at the line. They’ve covered the line in 4 of the last 5 games against the Kiwis and easily won 30-12 in the last game (2017, Canberra).
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