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Preview: Australia will continue their dominance

As all regular National Rugby League sides have the week off, the representative season kicks off for 2012.
Preview: Australia will continue their dominance
by NRL

As all regular National Rugby League sides have the week off, the representative season kicks off for 2012. The Australian Kangaroos will head across the ditch to play in the annual ANZAC Test Match at Eden Park for the first time since 1998. The corresponding match last season was scheduled to be played in New Zealand, with the horrendous earthquakes in Christchurch delaying those plans. The Kangaroos will be looking to continue their recent form in the one off Trans-Tasman clash, in which is one of the most anticipated matches between the two clubs. The ANZAC Test match became an annual fixture back in 1998, with the Kiwis winning on home soil in that match, the only time the game has been played in New Zealand.

The teams: The Australian side will feature eleven players who won the Four Nations Trophy in November last year against the English. The Kangaroos will have two debutantes in the side with in-form second rower David Taylor being rewarded with a starting spot, while New-Zealand born prop James Tamou will start the match from the bench. Matt Gillett, another uncapped Australian, was named 18th man and will travel with the squad but his services are unlikely to be required. The New Zealand side will feature three newcomers in the side, with fullback Josh Hoffman, halfback Shaun Johnson and benched prop Jesse Bromwich the fresh faces ready to represent their country. Utility back Gerard Beale was named 18th man in the squad, while teenager Jason Taumalolo, who only recently pledged allegiance with New Zealand, was also included in the squad named on Sunday night.

Australia: Billy Slater, Darius Boyd, Greg Inglis, Justin Hodges, Akuila Uate, Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk, Paul Gallen, Cameron Smith, David Shillington, Sam Thaiday, David Taylor, Luke Lewis. Interchange: Daly Cherry-Evans, Ben Hannant, James Tamou, Anthony Watmough.

New Zealand: Josh Hoffman, Jason Nightingale, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Simon Mannering, Manu Vatuvei, Benji Marshall, Shaun Johnson, Sam McKendy, Issac Luke, Ben Matulino, Adam Blair, Frank Pritchard, Jeremy Smith. Interchange: Nathan Fien, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Jesse Bromwich, Alex Glenn.

Danger men: The Kangaroos will be on high alert after Benji Marshall's return to form against the Penrith Panthers on Sunday. The dangerous five-eighth was at his play making best and will be looking to combine with Shaun Johnson in the first match together, in what shapes as to be the cornerstone of New Zealand's success in the future. With two of the most exciting players in the halves, the forward pack will need to lay a platform with Ben Matulino and Sam McKendry leading the engine room, the Australians will need to halt their go-forward. New Zealand's defence will need to be aggressive if they are to stop the numerous match-winners in the Australian back-line. The spine of the Kangaroos of Billy Slater, Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith are all in career best form leading into this match and will keep the Kiwi defensive line honest.

Barnesy's Bet: I think the Australians will continue their dominance over the Kiwis, with a convincing win by at least a margin of 12 points, with Johnathan Thurston to be named man-of-the-match. For first try-scorer, look for Billy Slater, Darius Boyd or Akuila Uate for the visitors. For the home side Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Manu Vatuvei or Josh Hoffman would be odds-on to cross the stripe first.

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