Kangaroos Need To Discover Their Hop & Make Four Nations Final
November 03, 2014
The Four Nations final in Australia, without Australia almost seems absurd, but that will be the outcome if the Kangaroos lose to England on Sunday. A loss to the mother country will see the Green and Gold go into their final game against Samoa with only pride to play for, but it’s unlikely that will be recovered if the host nation goes out in straight sets.
Statistics say Australia will beat England, but that adds more pressure to an under fire and inexperienced Aussie outfit. Australia hasn’t missed international rugby league final since 1954, but if they do lose back to back matches the 60 year run will be over. Losing consecutive games however is foreign; the last time it happened was in 1978 against France, while you have to go back a further 8 years for the last time Australia lost successive matches on home soil. The numbers are also favourable in terms of their opposition. The Poms haven’t triumphed over the Aussies since 1995, while their last victory against the Kangaroos on Australian soil was another 20 years before that.
Australia’s Attitude Needs Adjusting
The Kangaroos were on the back of a 16 game winning streak dating back to 2010 heading into their four Nations opener and they played like a team expecting to win without turning up. They completed just 22 of 34 sets, made 14 errors and racked up an incredible 51 missed tackles. Now usually we’d applaud an Aussie reaching a half century but that effort raised eyebrows, not the bat. Unfortunately for the hosts a hot and cold Kiwi side decided to take advantage, dismantling their opponents after half time to record up a 30-12 victory and put 1 foot in the final.
Injury played its part in Australia’s demise; an unwell Greg Inglis didn’t play the second half while a strange hip / buttock problem for Daly Cherry Evans saw his night also end early. Still it was no excuse; in fact attitude rather than injury was what hurt the hosts most. The simple fact is The Kangaroos were out enthused, out muscled and outplayed.
And some have paid the price with Australia’s already almost unrecognisable side has undergoing more changes for Sunday’s showdown at AAMI Park in Melbourne. Boyd Cordner replaces Josh Papalii on the bench while Ben Hunt remains ready to play with Cherry Evans still a major doubt to be fit. But it seems Hunt’s likely debut will be overshadowed by another debutant, one which will rewrite the record books. Newcastle Knights winger Sione Mata’utia is set to make the youngest debut in Australian history – at 18 years and 130 days old the Novocastrian will beat the previous record set by Israel Folau in 2007 by 64 days.
The Game Breakers
After narrowly edging past Samoa 32-26 in the Four Nations opener, England may have feared what was to come against, but after watching the Kangaroos fumble and bumble their way to an 18 point loss against the Kiwis, confidence is high in the English camp they can add to the Aussie’s misery. While England’s big forwards will fancy their chances against a mini more mobile Australian pack, size could also be the visitors downfall. Samoan hooker Pita Godinet (who’s played a handful of NRL games) ran rampant in the ruck last weekend and there’s some bloke called Cameron Smith who plays for Australia who’s not a bad number 9. And if Smith takes a break from trying to exploit the English Giants, Robbie Farah will fill the role.
But look for Australia’s number 1 to have a big performance, Greg Inglis has recovered from the virus which saw him struggle against New Zealand and he should be back to his best. If given space and room the Souths superstar can run around, through and over opponents. Cooper Cronk’s another that can almost win a match on his own, but he’ll need at least a little help from his forwards. Expect the Queenslander to do most of the play-making especially if Ben Hunt starts alongside him. Cronk’s pinpoint passing and exceptional kicking game will surely create chances, it’s whether his team mates can capitalise on the openings.
It’s no secret Australia struggled without Matt Scott’s metres, Paul Gallen’s grit, Johnathan Thurston’s silky skills and the Hayne Plane’s grounding, but surely the team that takes the field is capable of claiming victory. Or will England end a 39 year hoodoo and end Australia’s tournament? The punters think not with the Kangaroos still favourites with the bookmakers to not only win but do it with breathing space.