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Preview: New Zealand v Australia

New Zealand will have to break a 14-year drought if they are to emerge on top of Australia in Friday night's one-off Test match at Auckland's Eden Park.
Preview: New Zealand v Australia
by NRL

New Zealand will have to break a 14-year drought if they are to emerge on top of Australia in Friday night's one-off Test match at Auckland's Eden Park.

That's how long it has been since the Kiwis have triumphed in a mid-season Test match. They may have got the better of Australia in finals for the Tri-Nations, Four Nations and World Cup over the past decade but winning one-off Tests has proven to be beyond them.

The Kiwis have named a near full-strength line-up for this clash, with Manly's Kieran Foran and Steve Matai the only significant absentees. They look solid up front with Sam McKendry and Ben Matulino packing down with South Sydney's Issac Luke but their real strengths exist in the back row where Adam Blair and Frank Pritchard will line up with experienced Cronulla lock Jeremy Smith.

Warriors virtuoso Shaun Johnson will debut at halfback inside Benji Marshall and if this pair is given any latitude the Kiwis could run the Australians off their feet.

But if the Kiwi line-up looks impressive, the Australian 17 appears even more powerful. The nucleus of the Queensland side that has surged to six consecutive State of Origin series wins provides the backbone of the Australian team, with in-form Sharks skipper Paul Gallen, Knights winger Akuila Uate and Penrith captain Luke Lewis the only New South Wales interlopers in the starting 13.

Rabbitohs back-rower David Taylor and Cowboys prop James Tamou will make their debuts for Australia and that should guarantee some explosive confrontations.

There is every possibility of wet or slippery conditions at Eden Park so a penalty goal as First Scoring Play may be a worthwhile option.

Australia's dominance over a long period makes a 13+ victory to the visitors a stand-out bet.

Players to include in First Tryscorer calculations include Jason Nightingale, Manu Vatuvei or Shaun Kenny-Dowall for New Zealand or Billy Slater, Akuila Uate or Greg Inglis for Australia.

TEAMS

New Zealand: 1 Josh Hoffman (Brisbane), 2 Jason Nightingale (Dragons), 3 Shaun Kenny-Dowall (Roosters), 4 Simon Mannering (Warriors), 5 Manu Vatuvei (Warriors), 6 Benji Marshall (Wests Tigers), 7 Shaun Johnson (Warriors), 8 Sam McKendry (Penrith), 9 Issac Luke (Souths), 10 Ben Matulino (Warriors), 11 Frank Pritchard (Canterbury), 12 Adam Blair (Wests Tigers), 13 Jeremy Smith (Cronulla). Subs: 14 Nathan Fien (Dragons), 15 Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Roosters), 16 Jesse Bromwich (Melbourne), 17 Alex Glenn (Brisbane), 18th man: Gerard Beale (Brisbane). Coach: Tim Sheens (Wests Tigers).

Australia: 1 Billy Slater (Melbourne), 2 Darius Boyd (Newcastle), 3 Greg Inglis (Souths), 4 Justin Hodges (Brisbane), 5 Akuila Uate (Newcastle), 6 Johnathan Thurston (North Qld), 7 Cooper Cronk (Melbourne), 8 Paul Gallen (Cronulla), 9 Cameron Smith [c] (Melbourne), 10 David Shillington (Canberra), 11 David Taylor (Souths), 12 Sam Thaiday (Brisbane), 13 Luke Lewis (Penrith). Subs: 14 Daly Cherry-Evans (Manly), 15 Ben Hannant (Brisbane), 16 James Tamou (North Qld), 17 Anthony Watmough (Manly). 18th man: Matt Gillett (Brisbane). Coach: Stephen Kearney (New Zealand).

Prediction: Australia by 24

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