DANNY McGuire and David Hodgson scored two tries each as Great Britain cruised past a Newcastle Select XIII 40-6 in a Tri-Nations warm-up game.
GREAT Britain have released four players from their squad ahead of their opening Tri-Nations Test against New Zealand in Christchurch on Saturday.Warrington duo Lee Briers and Ben Westwood, Salford's David Hodgson and Wigan's Mickey Higham will return home.They were part of a stand-by squad which helped Britain beat a Newcastle team in a warm-up match on Friday."Following our warm-up game, the staff have now finalised their plans for the series," said team manager Abi Ekoku."We would like thank the players returning home for their contributions to the squad and the professionalism they have shown during their time with the group," added Ekoku.Briers, who won his solitary Great Britain cap against France in 2001, will now be free to captain Wales in their World Cup qualifier against Scotland in Bridgend next Sunday.Westwood, Hodgson and Higham may be made available for England's games against Tonga and Samoa in the Federation Shield. Great Britain players remaining for Tri-Nations matches:Martin Aspinwall (Huddersfield Giants)Rob Burrow (Leeds Rhinos)Brian Carney (Newcastle Knights)Garreth Carvell (Hull FC), Andy Coley (Salford City Reds)Gareth Ellis (Leeds Rhinos)Stuart Fielden (Wigan Warriors)Lee Gilmour (St Helens)Martin Gleeson (Warrington Wolves)Gareth Hock (Wigan Warriors)Richard Horne (Hull FC), Sean Long (St Helens)Danny McGuire (Leeds Rhinos)Adrian Morley (Sydney Roosters)Terry Newton (Bradford Bulls)Sean O'Loughlin (Wigan Warriors)Danny Peacock (Leeds Rhinos, capt) Leon Pryce (St Helens)Gareth Raynor (Hull FC)James Roby (St Helens)Keith Senior (Leeds Rhinos)Paul Wellens (St Helens)Jon Wilkin (St Helens)Paul Wood (Warringtom Wolves)Kirk Yeaman (Hull FC)Stand by: Stuart Reardon (Warrington Wolves)Source: bbc.co.uk
TRI-NATIONS Game 2 Australia 20 v New Zealand 15at Telstra Dome, MelbourneReferee: Ashley KleinMatch Summary:AUSTRALIA has snatched a miraculous victory from New Zealand following a sensational try to centre Mark Gasnier in the final minutes of tonight's Tri-Nations II clash in Melbourne.With just two minutes remaining, Australia attacked the Kiwi line through it?s halves in Johnathon Thurston and Darren Lockyer, combining with fullback Karmichael Hunt who put a flying Gasnier through a hole from close range. But it was winger Greg Inglis in the 75th minute who put Australia within reach when he ran 50 metres to score under the posts. Inglis received a flat ball from his captain Darren Lockyer before sprinting down the touchline.New Zealand were the first to score when rookie Shontayne Hape scored his first Test try in the 7th minute. The Kiwis managed to hold out the Aussies, keeping most of the possession whilst dominating the penalty count. Both sides were aggressive right from the start but it was New Zealand who dominated in defence while rushing up early on Lockyer and Thurston, leaving the Australian halves with few options.The second-half started much like the first. A break from Kiwi stalwart Stacey Jones led to a try to Iosia Soliola in the 50th minute. Soliola then bagged his second in the 66th minute after a blindside movement on the last tackle, boosting the confidence in the Kiwi camp. A win looked inevitable for the Kiwis. But Australia showed it?s class and was too good in the end.Australia have now gone two-up in this year's Tri-Nations series while New Zealand have yet to post a win. Next Saturday the Kiwis take on Great Britain at Jade Stadium in Christchurch.Scorers:Australia: 20Tries: Mark Gasnier, Greg Inglis(2)Goals: Johnathan Thurston 4/4New Zealand: 15Tries: Iosia Soliola(2), Shontayne HapeGoals: Stacey Jones 1/3Field Goals: Stacey JonesBy the Clock:Rugby League will showcase one of the most anticipated rematches of the year in Melbourne tonight when Australia takes on New Zealand at the Telstra Dome in Game II of the Tri-Nations series. Tonight?s game promises to be an aggressive one right from the start after a fiery encounter last week, which saw some sledging, big-hits and an all-in-brawl. Kangaroos prop Willie Mason withdrew from tonight?s game yesterday on the advice of team doctor Hugh Hazzard so Mark O?Meley moves into the starting side. Anthony Tupou will make his debut off the bench in place of the injured Reni Maitua ? Andrew Ryan has been promoted to the run-on team as a second-rower moving Luke O'Donnell to lock. Sam Thaiday will also debut for Australia tonight in number 19. For the Kiwi?s Shontayne Hape will start on the wing as Nathan Fien and David Fa?alogo are welcomed to the bench. Jerome Ropati moves to hooker in place of the injured Dene Halatau. The players are now making there way out on to the ground. They are now waiting for the National anthems. The Haka - which should be interesting - will follow.KICKOFF - New Zealand kicks off and gets Game II of the Tri-Nations underway. New Zealand will run left to right. 2 min: NEWS Australia is penalised for taking the unattended ball at the ruck. NZ was causght napping without a dummyhalf but Referee Klein pinned the Aussies. NZ now on the attack in the Aussie half.3 min: NEWS NZ have now recieved another penalty close to the Aussie line. They're looking dangerous.4 min: NEWS Aussie's now have the ball back after a Manu Vatuvei knock-on. 6 min: NEWS David Kidwell takes a quick tap off another NZ penalty close to the Aussie line and nearly scores, but is held up. Another set of six for NZ.7 min: TRY New ZealandShontayne Hape get's his first test try after using a nice right-step on the Aussie's before using his strength to score. Jones fails to convert. New Zealand 4-09 min: NEWS Both teams are showing aggression early on as Kiwi capatain Ruben Wiki smashes Karmichael Hunt. 13 min: NEWS New Zealand has had all the ball so far. Possession: NZ 65% AUS 35%.16 min: VIDEO REF - Matt King is disallowed a try after trying to score in the corner. Kiwi's get a scrum and Stacey Jones pulls off a bit of a fake run from the scrum gaining a penalty for his side.18 min: NEWS Soliola almost gets four points but loses the ball over the line. The Aussies look releaved.21 min: NEWS Australia recieves their first penalty of the match. They now enter the enemies territory for only the second time.22 min: NEWS More bad luck for Matt King on the right wing as another try is disallowed by the Video Refs. His leg crossed the line before he grounded the ball. Sam Thaiday is now on for Australia.24 min: NEWS Simon Mannering fumbles the ball whilst cleaning up inside the Kiwi in-goal and the Aussies earn another set of six through a goal line drop-out. 25 min: NEWS The Aussies get their second penalty and the Aussies opt to attack the Kiwi line. Australia's planned move fails and they turn the ball back over to NZ.30 min: NEWS Soliola is penalised for striping and the Kangaroos recieve a piggy back out of their own half.32 min: NEWS The Aussies are getting frustrated now. The Kiwi's are putting the pressure on by rushing up early leaving Lockyer and Thurston with few options.34 min: NEWS Matt King is dragged over the sideline by a strong defencive effort from Vatuvei.36 min: TRY AustraliaA brilliant piece of individual brilliance from the freak, Greg Inglis, sees Australia score their first try of the night. Inglis palmed off Stacey Jones and ran 20m without being touched before crossing the line.Thurston converts. Australia 6-4HALF-TIMENew Zealand were all over Australia in the early stages of this half. Australia were left with few options thanks to a strong and fast Kiwi defence on several occasions. But it was Greg Inglis who came through for Australia and registered 4 much needed points. The match has so far lived up to it's promise - that it would be a fast and aggressive match. The second-half awaits.KICKOFF - Australia gets the second-half underway. They will run left to right. 42 min: NEWS Shaun Berrigan throws a careless foward pass to O'Meley and gives a scrum to NZ, but they quickly turn it back over to the Aussies after a decoy runner gets an unexpected pass from Jones. 44 min: NEWS Hodges loses the ball after some great footwork and shortly after Australia are penalised for being off-side. 46 min: NEWS Kangaroos penalty after Civoniceva was lifted by two Kiwi players. They now have the ball inside the Kiwi's 20. 48 min: NEWS Brent Webb throws a ball foward almost gridiron style to his winger. Austrlia gets a scrum but Hindmarsh loses it soon after. NZ is fighting hard. 50 min: TRY New ZealandIosia Soliola crosses the line after a some great attacking play from the Kiwi's which put the Aussies on the back foot. Some great work from Jones, Webb and Soliola put their team infront. Jones fails to add the extras. New Zealand 8-655 min: NEWS Soliola makes a break but is tackled by a determined Thurston. 56 min: NEWS Referee Klein blows to penalties in a row to Australia. He addresses NZ skipper Wiki. Lockyer points to the posts. 57 min: PENALTY GOAL AustraliaThurston adds 2 much needed points to the scoreboard for Australia. 8 all.59 min: NEWS Brent Webb milks a penalty. NZ then lose the ball soon after but then the Aussies cant hold it either. NZ on the attack now.62 min: NEWS Karmichael Hunt leaps in to the air and makes a great take off an ordinary Jones bomb. Aussies recieve a penalty soon after. 66 min: TRY New ZealandSoliola dives over to score after recieving the ball from Mannering during some scrappy play. It's his second try of the night.Jones adds 2 points. New Zealand 14-869 min: VIDEO REF - A Karmichael Hunt try is controversially disallowed by the Video Refs due to obstruction. The Aussie fans are blowing up.71 min: NEWS Cameron Smith loses the ball in the ruck. An Asotasi hand may have interfeared.72 min: FIELD GOAL New ZealandStacey Jones plays it smart and takes his side out to a 7 point lead with 8mins to go. He strikes the ball nicely and it goes over. New Zealand 15-875 min: TRY AustraliaGreg Inglis strides over 50m to score under the posts after recieving a nice ball from Lockyer.Thurston converts. New Zealand 15-1476 min: NEWS Aussies recieve a much needed penalty after sa high shot from a NZ player. 78 min: TRY AustraliaPossibly one of the best centres in the world, Mark Gasnier, has saved Australia by scoring next to the posts from a good Karmichael Hunt ball and nice all-round Aussie play. Thurston puts another 2 on the board. Australia 20-15FULL-TIMEThe Kangaroos have pulled off a miracle. The Kiwis were almost certain winners until Gasnier crossed the line. What a game!-----------------------------------------Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - Greg Inglis (Kangaroos)2 - Iosia Soliola (Kiwis)1 - Nathan Hindmarsh (Kangaroos)-----------------------------------------
FRANCE Rugby League are going into their opening Federation Shield fixture against England at Headingley Carnegie Stadium, Leeds on Sunday (Kick ?off 5.45pm) confident that they can win.French team manager Gilles Dumas speaking from the team?s headquarters in France said: ?We?re very motivated for the match against England on Sunday.?Playing against England at any time is very special and our players have set their hearts on playing well against the English this time as well as in the rest of the tournament.?Last year England beat us 22-12 at Headingley Carnegie Stadium and it was a very close encounter. This year we hope to win?.Dumas, a former French international stand off half, added: ?It?s also very exciting for the French team to play against both Samoa and Tonga in the tournament.?We?re not used to playing against either country and, because many of their players have played in Australia?s National Rugby League, it?s going to be a fruitful experience for our players. The Samoans and Tongans will be robust and play a strong game.?I believe that the Federation Shield is great preparation for all four countries as they prepare for the 2008 World Cup?It gives the Head Coaches an opportunity to assess the level of progress their teams are making as well as the players having the experience of competing against players they do not know.?The French players are really excited about taking part in the Federation Shield and they can?t wait to start playing.?Renaud Guigue (Carpentras) Olivier Charles (Villefranche) Damien Couturier (Hull KR) Teddy Sadaoui (Carcassonne) Frederic Zitter (UTC)James Wynne (Toulouse) Julien Rinaldi (Harlequins) J?r?me Guisset (Catalans, captain) David Berthezene (Catalans) Adel Fellous (Catalans) Olivier Elima (Wakefield) Aurelien Cologni (Lezignan) Gregory Mounis (Catalans) Jamil Fakir (Catalans) S?bastien Raguin (Catalans) Jean-Christophe Borlin (St Gaudens)Maxime Gr?s?que (Pia) Matthieu Griffi (Catalans) Coach: John MonieSource: www.therfl.co.uk
TODAY, a summary of player movements so far for the other six Superleague clubs, as well as relegated Castleford for good measure. Remember, for all the latest signing details as they happen, see the forum thread maintained by "Evil Homer" by clikcing "here".
SEVEN players from Leeds Rhinos have been included in the England team to face France at Headingley Carnegie Stadium on Sunday (Kick off 5.45pm).
TWO Harlequins RL stars, Solomon Haumono and Tyrone Smith, are included in the Tongan team to face Samoa in the opening match of Rugby League?s newest international competition, the Federation Shield, at Headingley Carnegie Stadium, Leeds on Sunday (Kick off 3.45pm).
AS the 2006 Tri Nations rugby league tournament kicked off in New Zealand at the Mt Smart Stadium last Saturday night, the beginning of a rugby league fest of vision began streaming into Malta through Sky Sports.Australia fended off last year?s conquerors New Zealand 30-18 in the tournament opener and this servd as a prelude to the remaining six matches which will all be beamed into the Maltese Islands.With the historic victory of New Zealand over Australia in Leeds last November, Great Britain turns from host to tourist over four weeks that will see exciting world class international rugby league played at locations from Melbourne through to Brisbane and Sydney and across the Tasman to Christchurch and Wellington.The Sky Sports Malta broadcast schedule to this year?s Tri Nations rugby league tournament. All times are in Malta time.Sat Oct 21, Australia v New Zealand, 11.30am SS3Sat Oct 28, New Zealand v Great Britain, 8.30am SS3Sat Nov 04, Australia v Great Britain, 9.30am SS2Sat Nov 11, New Zealand v Great Britain, 7.30am SS2Sat Nov 18, Australia v Great Britain, 10.30am SS2Sat Nov 25, Tri Nations Final, 9.30am SS2
HARLEQUINS RL loose forward Rob Purdham will captain England in the Federation Shield, which gets under way in Leeds on Sunday.
IT?S been a busy week or so since St Helens were victorious in the Grand Final in front of a Superleague record crowd at Old Trafford, and the other clubs have already been busy signing players to try and make up ground for next season. Let?s see if we can track some of the player movements that have been confirmed so far.For all the latest details as they happen, see the forum thread maintained by ?Evil Homer? by clikcing "here".Hull FC - Danny Tickle, Wayne Godwin, Willie Manu, Matt Sing, Hutch Maiava Ex-Wigan forwards Danny Tickle and Wayne Godwin will be looking for fresh starts on the other side of the country when they turn out at KC Stadium under Peter Sharp next season. Willie Manu joins from relegated Castleford where his season was interrupted with an Australian community service order. Hull lost several players mid-season to retirement and other clubs. Along with retired international winger Matt Sing joining from North Queensland and a former NZ squad member Hutch Maiava joining from Cronulla, Hull FC aren?t resting on this year?s second place finish, and the taste of what is possible over the past two seasons could spur this club onto more. Bradford ? Michael Platt, James Evans, Chris Feather Glenn MorrisonCoach Steve McNamara?s first signings since taking over at Grattan Stadium were been prop Chris Feather on a three year deal, and Parramatta forward Glenn Morrison, Castleford fullback Michael Platt and Wakefield loanee James Evans from Huddersfield, all on two year deals. Bradford have lost winger Karl Pryce to rugby union and forward Brad Meyers to the Gold Coast, and rumours persist that Wakefield?s David Solomona might look to hook up with Bradford should they meet the conditions of his release. The Bulls faithful will again have expectations that they will be there or thereabouts when the major titles are decided next season.Leeds ? Brent Webb, Kylie LeuluaiCoach Tony Smith will welcome two Kiwi signings to Headingley in New Zealand international fullback Brent Webb and New Zealand born Manly prop Kylie Leuluai. Next season the Rhinos will be without rugby union bound Chev Walker, and gold Coast bound fullback Richie Matthers, as well as the retired Willie Poching and released Shane Millard, and departing Mark O?Neil and Chris Feather. However Leeds will also retain their mid-season signings of former NZ international Clinton Toopi and former GB international Jamie Thackray. While successful enough this year, by Leeds standards the season did not produce the expected results, and I?d suspect Leeds are still on the lookout for that someone who might be able to recreate their spark of previous seasons.Warrington - Vinnie Anderson, Paul Johnson, Adrian MorleyAfter being left out of the 17 for St Helens? biggest games this season, Vinnie Anderson moves to Warrington on a three year deal. Warrington paid ?50,000 for Anderson to move with one year left on his Saints contract, and he will play either alongside GB international Martin Gleeson in the centres, or in the Wolves back row. Vinnie joins Warrington?s other international recruits, Paul Johnson and Adrian Morley at Halliwell Jones Stadium under England coach Paul Cullen next year. Warrington have lost Logan Swann to NZ Warriors, Tohe Kohe-Love to Widnes, and prop Mark Hilton has retired. Warrington seem intent on doing everything they can to remain a top six club in the future.Salford ? Luke Dorn, Mark Edmondson, Michael KorkidasAs one of this season?s key players Andrew Dunemann leaves the Reds for Canberra, London-based Luke Dorn moves up Manchester way to fill the gap. The Reds have also signed forwards Mark Edmondson returning from his stint with the Syndey Roosters and Michael Korkidas one of several forwards that seem to be leaving Wakefield. The Reds will be without the retiring Sean Rutgerson as well as Chris Charles and Simon Baldwin who are moving to National League clubs. Salford have spent sensibly in also recruiting players from National League and Academy teams to cover, but coach Karl Harrison be desperate next season to maintain the club?s hard won top six status. Harlequins ? Scott Hill, Sione Faumuina, Julien Rinaldi, Danny Orr, Jon Grayshon, Chris MellingAlways seems to be a lot of movement for the London club, and next year will be no exception with 13 players from this year?s squad who will no longer wear the Quins colours under coach Brian McDermott. Twickenham Stoop regulars will be expecting Melbourne?s Scott Hill, French international Julien Rinaldi who has signed from Les Catalans, or Wigan?s Danny Orr to make up for the loss of playmakers Luke Dorn and Thomas Leuluai. Forward Jon Grayshon from Huddersfield and utility Chris Melling from Wigan are probably the first of several signings to bolster some depth in next season?s Harlequins side which will be without the likes of regulars Mark Tookey, Danny Williams, Nick Bradley-Qawilawa and Joe Mbu. Part Two with other Superleague clubs coming tomorrow?
WYNNUM?S WEEKEND OF CHAMPIONS
IT is not just the Pakistan cricket team facing problems with performance enhancing drugs. The unwanted spectre of drug abuse has hit rugby league not for the first time this season.The worrying aspect is that the two players concerned are in rugby league?s "feeder" competitions, the breeding ground for the first grade players of the future.Newtown Jim Beam Cup player Matthew Eather and Penrith-St Mary?s Premier League player Greg Brain have been given two-year suspensions after testing positive during the season to performance enhancing drugs.Eather admitted using a human growth hormone.Penrith senior grade player Craig Trindall was handed a 12-week suspended sentence and ordered to undertake 40 hours? community service after testing positive to cannabis. Trindall played a handful of first grade games this season when the regular half Craig Gower was injured.The penalties for the performance enhancing drugs are consistent with the guidelines set out by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (which conducted the tests).Rugby league continues to take a much more lenient approach to drugs such as cannabis ? as opposed to performance enhancing substances ? however there will be concerns that Trindall?s penalty is at the absolute bottom of the scale.The lenient approach to illegal drugs other than performance enhancing substances was surely confirmed when the Cowboys? Mitchell Sargent was allowed to sign a three-year contract with the Newcastle Knights barely three weeks after the Cowboys somewhat courageously tore up his contract.While there can be no complaint with the penalties being handed out for performance enhancing substances by rugby league administrators, the very lenient attitude to other drugs will simply have to be revisited for the good of the game.
OUR second fixture for this year?s Tri-Nations tournament sees the two Antipodeans arrive in our southern capital to recommence battle positions.Last weeks encounter at Mt Smart Stadium got the pulse racing with an enjoyable fight, one massive hit by Kidwell and a bit of general argy-bargy by the Kiwis. Throughout this Australia managed to keep their composure and run out 30-18 victors, a score line that flattered New Zealand a little.Things will be different this time around with all the early post-match banter focussing on Mason?s headaches and nose-bleeds with the Aussie?s complaining of Kidwell?s ?cowardice? in not running straight. It looked pretty straight to me ? I?d hate to see what kind of mess he would have made out of Mason if he came from the side!The eligibility card has been thrown into the mix again with Fien making his debut for the Kiwis from the bench after Mason attacked Webb?s heritage. Apparently Stuart has told Mason to keep quiet during the haka this time around, but surely the slapping of the legs will still be resonating throughout Telstra Dome when the big prop opens the gob to apply a liberal dose of abuse towards the Cowboy-come-Warrior Fien.There is a small shadow over Mason as well, but I can?t see him pulling out of this one otherwise he?ll suffer a serious credibility downgrade. He also needs to get involved early in the game to show he?s not intimidated by Kidwell or the rest of the Kiwi pack who will no doubt niggle him over the course of the match. My tip is that someone other than Kidwell will line Mason up and have a crack, possibly Wiki or Blair. I?ve been having visions of Dowling v Tamati all week and will be foaming at the mouth if another stoush breaks out. It?s great to see a few blokes having a dig again and if we?re all honest with ourselves the fights are often the best part of the game.Next the ref has come under fire and rightly so. He danced around the paddock like a camel on ice skates last week, clearly displaying he was well out of his depth at that level.Moving on, one big positive for the game is the media attention it has been receiving, if not for the quality of the contest but for the controversy. The Melbourne sporting community cap off a remarkable year with this Test match, only the third to have ever been played in Victoria.Previous Test Matches played in Melbourne:Australia v New Zealand at Olympic Park in 1991Australia v Great Brittain at Princes Park in 1992But geez the TV coverage has been despicable. For once Melbourne could have had their cake and eaten it too with enough time to fit an entire hour of Australia?s Funniest Home Video?s before the coverage starts at 7.30 in the northern states. Instead Victorian viewers will be treated to Scooby Doo before having salt rubbed into the wounds with the unsurpassed comedic wit of Bruce Willis in The Whole Nine Yards at 9.30. Considering Channel 9 owns part of the game you would think they might promote it in Australia?s second largest sports market, and with the Caulfield Cup on during the day it would have given fans a perfect way to wind down the evening. But the silver lining for League is that at least they have the opportunity to get out to the match, a rare event in Melbourne indeed.First up, let?s take a butcher?s at the Kiwis?New Zealand: Brent Webb, Shontayne Hape, Iosia Soliola, Steve Matai, Manu Vatuvei, Nigel Vagana, Stacey Jones, Ruben Wiki (c), Jerome Ropati, Roy Asotasi, David Kidwell, Tony Puletua, Simon ManneringInterchange: Nathan Cayless, Adam Blair, David Fa'alogo, Nathan FienHape comes in here for Tupou and Ropati replaces the injured Halatau at hooker with Fien onto the bench. Pritchard has been dropped for Fa?alogo in the only other change. I?m not jumping out of my skin at this whatsoever as I think McClennan has got it wrong with his selections, but I?m happy to be proven wrong.I think they would have been better off pushing Vagana out into the centres and lobbing Soliola onto the wing. That would allow Ropati to play outside Jones and take a bit of pressure off him ? he had a really good finish to the season. This opens up the door for Fien, another late season star for the Warriors, to start at hooker giving New Zealand more options to attack across the ground. I think that?s what they lacked in the first game.I?m surprised Mannering has held his position, particularly with Pritchard being punted. Fa?alogo will provide some impact and I was happy to see Blair go well in Game I. Now for the Aussies?Australia: Karmichael Hunt, Matt King, Mark Gasnier, Justin Hodges, Greg Inglis, Darren Lockyer (c), Johnathan Thurston, Willie Mason, Cameron Smith, Petero Civoniceva, Andrew Ryan, Nathan Hindmarsh, Luke O'DonnellInterchange: Mark O'Meley, Shaun Berrigan, Anthony Tupou, Brent Kite.The injury to Maitua sees Ryan promoted from the bench and into the second row with O?Donnell moving back to lock. Tupou comes in as a reserve as the only other change and makes his debut. I agree with the suggestion of favouritism with his decision here, making Thaiday one of the unluckiest players in the squad. He is on stand-by for Mason, but in the fair dinkum department, he ought to be in a toss-up for a starting position.He had a great semi-finals campaign, culminating in a strong showing in the winning Grand Final team and he gets overlooked for a guy that has played only one game (PM?s XIII v the Kumuls) since 2nd September. It wouldn?t help that Stuart doesn?t get along with Bennett ? Thaiday?s club coach ? and I think such selections brings the position of Australian coach into disrepute.In any case the team is still very strong and Tupou does add mobility and ball-playing to the forward pack, something they?re a bit short of.The decisionLast week the Aussies showed they had plenty of finesse when it comes to the Greatest Game if All and I?d expect more of the same this week. They defended well, made constructive attack and pounced on the loose ball with urgency. I can?t really fault their game too much other than the observation that they didn?t dominate the Kiwis in the forwards ? it was very much two way traffic.Australia?s backrow is by far better than New Zealand?s. I didn?t think Mannering was all that good and neither was Puletua, but both players are still there alongside Kidwell the Destroyer. Up against Ryan, Hindmarsh and O?Donnell they will struggle a bit and this should see the Aussie backs enjoy more of the ball.For New Zealand, I?d like to see them use Webb at fullback a little wiser. He needs to sniff about in the middle of the ruck and try to link up with his forwards and create breaks. Ropati will offer more zip out of acting half than Halatau but I still prefer Fien in that position.This game becomes even more crucial to New Zealand?s chances of defending their 2005 title as they host Great Britain at home twice in the coming weeks. They need to forget about what happened last week and play smarter footy. Given Jones has returned from the U.K. to play he might have been in need a hit-out to get back into rhythm. I hope this is the case because the two opening games last year were great to watch with Jones featuring heavily.The backdrop of Kidwell?s hit last week should energise both forward packs and intensify the aggression in the game. We could be looking at a very fiery clash but it all depends on how far things go. As I said last week, if New Zealand can get under Australia?s skin and upset their game plan, then they may well jag a win. But if they?re going to do things the professional way then Jones, Webb and Fien need to be at their best.I hope it?s a good contest and the standard of footy is better this time around. Both sides probably dusted out a few cobwebs so we should be treated to a better game. When it comes down to it picking a team I?m going to stick with the Aussies. Again I think neither forward pack will dominate the other but the Aussies should win on the fringes of the ruck through their backrow. And when you cast your eye over the Kangaroos backline it simply oozes skill, speed and size.
WARRIORS hooker Nathan Fien will make his Kiwis debut this Saturday.
AUSTRALIAN prop Willie Mason is adamant a few headaches will not stop him from exacting some revenge on the Kiwis in Saturday night's second Tri-Nations match in Melbourne.Mason is still suffering dizzy spells after being on the receiving end of a heavy shoulder charge from New Zealand backrower David Kidwell in the tournament opener last weekend, but is confident of taking part in the Telstra Dome clash.The Australian forward leader is sure to have his injured eye given a thorough working over by the Kiwis after being accused of disrespecting the haka before the Auckland match. MASON says he is ready for whatever the Kiwi pack dishes up at Telstra Dome but denies he will go looking for some payback with Kidwell.After a light day yesterday, the Australians will step up preparations for Saturday night's contest with a training session at Olympic Park later this morning.Over to the New Zealand camp and coach Brian McClennan has called on referee Ashley Klein to give the two sides some space in Saturday night's Tri-Nations clash at Telstra Dome.McClennan claimed the Australian-born English-based referee allowed the Kangaroos too much of a headstart in defence in the opening match in Auckland last week. The Kiwi coach says he will not seek a pre-game meeting with the Super League official, instead hoping Klein will make some alterations of his own after reviewing his performance in the series opener.Meanwhile, Hooker Nathan Fien will make his international rugby league debut for New Zealand on Saturday after earning a call up to the Kiwis bench to play Australia.Coach Brian McClennan has added the Warriors rake to the Kiwi's interchange bench for the second Tri-Nations Test in Melbourne after Dene Halatau was ruled out with a shoulder injury. Jerome Ropati will take Halatau's place at hooker in the starting line-up.