2018 PREVIEW 🔍 Lucky thirteen? South Sydney Rabbitohs are next up in our #NRL club preview series. J...
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Kiwis look to build momentum as fight for spots heats up
Showing their class to finish convincing victors over Samoa last Saturday night, New Zealand will be eager to continue their point-scoring prowess against a Scottish team lacking the necessary class to challenge their pool combatants. Turning a slender six-point lead at the change of ends into a comprehensive 30-point demolition, coach David Kidwell has retained the bulk of his side, while rotating in the seven members of the 24-man squad who sat on the sidelines in Auckland. In the biggest selection decision, Te Maire Martin has been named to start for the first time alongside Shaun Johnson in the halves, while Addin Fonua-Blake will make his international debut off the bench. Further new faces include experienced backline trio Jason Nightingale, Dean Whare and Peta Hiku, while Elijah Taylor and Kenny Bromwich will line up in the forwards in place of Thomas Leuluai and Simon Mannering. With positions up for grabs in the high-pressure matches to come, the Kiwi players won't be taking the Scots lightly as they strive to prove the World Cup isn't a one-horse race.
To say a draw is the most impressive performance produced by a side outside the top three nations may seem damning with faint praise, yet on the showing delivered by Scotland in the Four Nations against New Zealand a year ago, the 18-all result would appear to be the foundation for a strong showing by the Bravehearts over the next month. For all the promise of last year, the harsh reality for coach Steve McCormack to contend with is the quality of players at his disposal for the World Cup aren't up to the standard required to challenge the likes of New Zealand, Samoa and as made abundantly clear last Sunday, the ever-impressive Tonga. As a result, Scotland will need to use their remaining fixtures to usher in the next generation of internationals, while ensuring the talents of seasoned veterans Danny Brough and Luke Douglas provide cause for optimism in the present. Shuffling the side with prominent attacking threat Lewis Tierney shifting to the wing and Sydney Roosters lower grader Jarred Anderson making his international debut in the back-row, Scotland will be hoping to avoid a similar disastrous start as seen against Tonga, while being realistic about their chances.
Who to watch: Having spent the majority of his career playing off the bench, New Zealand forward Joseph Tapine showed last week his form demands a starting position moving forward. Producing a team high of 35 tackles alongside 13 runs, the 23-year-old was a standout for the Kiwis with his involvement highlighting the personal development made over the past two seasons. Having been released by Newcastle coach Nathan Brown over unresolvable contract negotiations, Tapine has gone from strength to strength to go from fill-in centre for the Knights NSW Cup squad to becoming a starring first-choice second-rower for New Zealand. Facing off against the frail Scottish defence, Tapine will be looking to showcase his attacking skills with and in support of the ball.
In a badly beaten Scottish side, outside-back Lewis Tierney showed that when given an opportunity in open space, the Bravehearts possess an attacking spark capable of causing damage. As one of the few backline survivors from the promising Four Nations campaign last year, the 23-year-old speedster will be up against it on Saturday afternoon, but should the Kiwis fall into a defensive malaise, the man most likely for Scotland will be Tierney. While he may not boast the imposing size of some of the wingers participating in the World Cup, Tierney is testament that the most lethal trait in a game of rugby league is speed and on that trait alone the Kiwis will need to ensure he's contained.
The favourite: After flexing their muscles to dominate Samoa in the second half last week, the Kiwis are expected to easily account for the Bravehearts.
My tip: Having been embarrassed by Scotland in their last meeting 12 months ago, New Zealand will have their sights set on making amends with an imposing performance. New Zealand by 36.
1. Roger Tuivasa-sheck 2. Jason Nightingale 3. Dean Whare 4. Brad Takairangi 5. Peta Hiku 6. Te Maire Martin 7. Shaun Johnson 8. Martin Taupau 9. Elijah Taylor 10. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 11. Kenneath Bromwich 12. Joseph Tapine 13. Adam Blair 14. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 15. Russell Packer 16. Addin Fonua-blake 17. Danny Levi 18. Thomas Leuluai 19. Dallin Watene Zelezniak 20. Simon Mannering 21. Jordan Rapana
1. Alex Walker 2. Lewis Tierney 3. Ben Hellewell 4. Lachlan Stein 5. Matthew Russell 6. Danny Brough 7. Oscar Thomas 8. Luke Douglas 9. Danny Addy 10. Ben Kavanagh 11. Jarred Anderson 12. Dale Ferguson 13. James Bell 14. Kane Bentley 15. Sam Brooks 16. Brandan Wilkinson 17. John Walker 18. Andrew Bentley 19. Callum Phillips 20. Shane Toal 21. Frankie Mariano