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Kangaroos out to bury big-game demons

Australian captain Cameron Smith believes a golden generation of Kangaroos is ready to bury its big-game demons against New Zealand in the Rugby League World Cup final.
Kangaroos out to bury big-game demons
by AAP

By Liam FitzGibbon

MANCHESTER, England, Nov 29 AAP - Australian captain Cameron Smith believes a golden generation of Kangaroos is ready to bury its big-game demons against New Zealand in the Rugby League World Cup final.

While Smith has played down talk of revenge or redemption heading into Saturday's (Sunday morning AEDT) showdown at Old Trafford, the champion hooker admits reputations are at stake as Australia attempts to reclaim the title lost in 2008.

While the Kangaroos has been compared with some of the nation's greatest teams, the Kiwis have proved a thorn in their side on a quest for true greatness.

Australia have lost only twice in their past 34 Tests and both were at the hands of the Kiwis in major finals - at the 2008 World Cup decider and the 2010 Four Nations final.

"The one-off games, we've taken care of in the past," Smith said.

"They've only beaten us twice in the past five years but those were big matches unfortunately.

"I'm sure they won't be letting this opportunity slip.

"There's a few people talking about this as the best Kiwis side they've seen so it's going to take a special effort for us to get a victory."

Asked whether the Kangaroos side, featuring a handful of potential immortals, had a point to prove, Smith said: "Every time you turn up and play in a Kangaroos jersey, there's always reputation at stake.

"If we win, then people say 'they should have won' because people say we've got the stronger side and, if we lose, they'll say it's a failure.

"There's a lot of pressure on us and we know that but we have a pretty high expectation of ourselves as well to go out and play well and win."

Saturday's clash with the Sonny Bill Williams-inspired Kiwis could represent the final chance for the likes of 30-year-olds Smith, Johnathan Thurston and Billy Slater to capture a World Cup title.

With New Zealand claiming the trophy in 2008 and no tournament held before that since 2000, Australia's squad doesn't feature a single World Cup winner.

Smith says failure to lift the trophy on Saturday shouldn't tarnish the legacy of some of the game's modern-day greats but he believes the Kangaroos have given themselves every possible chance at capturing a 10th World Cup.

Australia have been ruthless en-route to a 13th straight final appearance, piling on 210 unanswered points in two big wins over Fiji and thrashings of the United States and Ireland.

While the Kiwis could benefit from a tougher hit-out in their last-gasp 20-18 semi-final win over England, Smith believes Australia have maintained their form and intensity during an easier run to the final, which featured a 64-0 thumping of Fiji last week.

"We couldn't have asked for any more with our preparation," Smith said.

Australia look likely to welcome Slater back from injury after his inclusion in Sheens' 19-man squad, though a final decision on his fitness will be made on match day.

New Zealand have lost back-rower Frank Pritchard to a hamstring injury but wingers wingers Manu Vatuvei (groin) and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (leg) have been named in Stephen Kearney's squad.

A record international rugby league crowd of around 75,000 is expected for the match.




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