World Champion Kangaroos aiming for 16th straight victory against New Zealand.
Australia are gunning for a record-equalling 16th straight victory when they play an inexperienced New Zealand side in the Anzac rugby league Test in Sydney on Friday.
The Kangaroos are heavily favoured to beat the Kiwis, who will be fielding five new caps and missing established stars Sonny Bill Williams, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Issac Luke, Kieran Foran, Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Manu Vatuvei.
In contrast, coach Tim Sheens has stuck with much the same Australia line-up that beat the Kiwis in last year’s World Cup final in England.
Kiwi coach Stephen Kearney has come under fire this week for bypassing several experienced internationals and opting for a number of untried players at Test level against the star-studded Kangaroos.
In particular, Kearney raised eyebrows when he plucked Penrith’s Isaac John from reserve grade to play opposite the reigning Golden Boot winner Johnathan Thurston at stand-off.
Kearney has bristled at suggestions he has shown a disregard for the international game with his selection.
“All we have done is go through a selection process. We don’t disrespect our jumper,” Kearney told reporters Thursday.
“We understand there has been negativity, but we’re getting the chance to go out and play for our country.
“The guys going out there for us will do a wonderful job and play with a great deal of energy.”
The Kiwis face a formidable task and have not beaten the Kangaroos in an Anzac Test (held in April or May) since 1998 in Auckland.
The weight of expectation has put the pressure on the Kangaroos and Sheens to justify their favouritism in the first trans-Tasman Test played in Sydney for six years.
The Australian line-up is a who’s who of the National Rugby League competition and apart from Thurston it features superstars Billy Slater, Greg Inglis, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith.
“Everyone thinks their mother could coach the Australian side — maybe they could,” Sheens said.
“But the pressure is still on the side. If they win, they’re expected to win. They don’t get much credit for that.”
Australia’s last defeat against all-comers at Test level was at the hands of New Zealand in the 2010 Four Nations final in Brisbane and if they beat the Kiwis on Friday it will be a record-equalling 16th successive Test victory, matching the golden run of Australia’s “Invincibles” from 1979 to 1983.
“We like to think we’re the ‘Unbeatables’ and we’re going OK,” Sheens said.
“(But) we had to earn that tag last year to be world champions, so it’s not just a matter of turning up.
“It’s still a matter of respecting your opposition.”
Australia – Billy Slater; Darius Boyd, Greg Inglis, Josh Morris, Brett Morris; Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk; Matthew Scott, Cameron Smith (capt), James Tamou; Greg Bird, Matt Gillett; Paul Gallen.
Interchange: Daly Cherry-Evans, Boyd Cordner, Nate Myles, Corey Parker.
New Zealand – Peta Hiku; Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Dean Whare, Gerard Beale, Jason Nightingale; Isaac John, Shaun Johnson; Jesse Bromwich, Ben Henry, Sam Moa; Simon Mannering (capt), Kevin Proctor; Adam Blair.
Interchange: Siliva Havili, Martin Taupau, Greg Eastwood, Tohu Harris.
Referee: Shayne Hayne (AUS)