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Kangaroos v Kiwis: Trans-Tasman rivalry reignites

It has been more than a year since these trans-Tasman rivals met but Australia's 26-24 loss in Auckland in 2018 is still very much in the forefront of their minds - just ask Damien Cook.

It was his maiden appearance in the famous green-and-gold jersey, so there's an itch he wants to scratch against the Kiwis on Friday night in Wollongong.

In the past two seasons the scorecard reads a win each. And in the last five Tests against all oppositions, Australia have a 4-1 record with New Zealand enjoying a 3-2 win-loss record. 

So in other words, this is another close confrontation between two well-coached, highly talented teams.

Only a conversion separated them before, so Latrell Mitchell's kicking boot could come to the fore this time around, after it was Valentine Holmes doing the kicking a year ago. 

Kiwis coach Michael Maguire is on a roll in his new position. He's going for a hat-trick of Test victories after snaring the final match in the series against England (34-0) last November,  then the mid-season Pacific Test against Tonga (34-14) in June.  

The Rundown

Team News

Kangaroos: The home team are 1-17 after Josh Papalii (rib) passed his fitness test at training on Thursday and was cleared to play. Payne Haas, Nick Cotric, Jack Wighton, Josh Addo-Carr and Paul Vaughan will all make their Test debuts while 18th man Cameron Murray will have to bide his time for his debut. 

Kiwis: The Kiwis are 1-17 as named. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Zane Tetevano, Braden Hamlin-Uele and Corey Harawira-Naera will make their Test debuts. Premiership-winning Roosters forward Isaac Liu (knee) is out with Adam Blair coming into the starting side at lock.

Key match-up

The two No.6s going at it should be worth the price of admission alone. Shaun Johnson was everywhere for NZ at the World Cup 9s, scoring two tries and setting up most of the others the Kiwis scored in five games last weelend. Cameron Munster has not played since the Storm bowed out of the NRL preliminary finals. In fact his last Test appearance was scoring two tries as a centre against Lebanon on the 2017 World Cup. But both men play a care-free brand of football that is highly entertaining and usually brings results on the score board.

For the Kangaroos to win

If Munster playing alongside Daly Cherry-Evans in Test colours for the first time is similar to the way the pair have linked for Queensland, then things are looking rosy for Australia. The energetic Josh Addo-Carr on the left wing should present problems for the Kiwis, and Munster knows his clubmate's skills very well. The Storm flyer is on debut but scored two tries for NSW in this year's Origin series and 16 tries in 23 games for Melbourne in 2019. 

For the Kiwis to win

Johnson scored a hat-trick against Tonga in June, which made up 50% of the tries scored that day. The Roosters grand final trio of Joey Manu, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, and Zane Tetevano (18th man) will be keen to continue celebration mode by keeping up their winning ways against the Aussies. They will be fresh legs for the Kiwis squad, the majority of whom played in the Nines. Their input could be just the battery-source the Kiwis can rely on to get them home.

Stat attack

It's Test match number 'Sweet 16' for Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga. He's after his 15th win at the helm, after only losing six games as a player in the 46 times he  ran out onto the field for Australia. 

And another thing...

It has been known for a few days now that this Test will be Marshall's record 20th appearance as captain of New Zealand, and his first since 2012. The proud Kiwi made his debut 15 years ago, so it's been quite a ride for the 34-year-old. 

Be there live at WIN Stadium for the Test Match Double Header. Visit nrl.com/tickets to purchase tickets.