With a point to prove following his omission from the Four Nations Tour at the end of 2016, Andrew Fifita shapes as one of the Kangaroos most damaging weapons in the ANZAC Test match in Canberra.
Added to the Australian side following the withdrawal of Aaron Woods through injury, former Kangaroo legend Darren Lockyer is one who believes Fifita will have a huge impact against the Kiwis later tonight.
“Andrew Fifita – after being left out last year he’ll make the most of the chance given to him by Mal Meninga to wear the green and gold again,” Lockyer predicted.
Similarly, Kangaroo Captain Cameron Smith, who plays his 50th game for Australia, was pleased to have Fifita back in the green and gold and was confident the Sharks prop would make a big contribution against the Kiwis.
“We played against Cronulla this year already and I've seen a change in his persona on the field, to be honest,” Smith said. “All he was worried about was doing his job for the team.
“I just think his focus was carrying the ball strong, which is his best asset, and getting his job done in defence. He wasn't worried about sledging or anything else outside of what he needed to do.
“He's paid his dues now and is playing exceptional football again this season and warrants selection.”
With a couple of changes to the Australian team forced by injury, against a New Zealand squad with a mix of experience and youthful exuberance, the World Champion Kangaroos are in for a challenging evening.
While boasting a 15 win, two loss record in matches played against New Zealand mid-year since the ANZAC Test concept began in 1997, the record isn’t quite as lopsided when it comes to end of year tours and tournaments, with the Kiwis needing to find that same winning formula if they hope to cause an upset.
Aiding their cause will be the inclusion of Kieran Foran in the halves alongside Shaun Johnson and the return from injury in 2017 of exciting fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
In the forwards New Zealand also boast some strike power, with skipper Jesse Bromwich and Manly hit-man Martin Tapau amongst those set to make life difficult for the Australians.
As for the Kangaroos, with Jonathan Thurston and Darius Boyd proving their fitness and ready to go, when throwing in Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith, the tried and tested combinations around the Australian spine have consistently got the job done and many predict that will be the case again this time around.
With Thurston overcoming his calf problem, Shark James Maloney won’t be required this time around, however his club teammate Valentine Holmes is set to play a big role up against Kiwi flyer Jordan Rapana.
The match gets underway at GIO Stadium at 8.00pm tonight. Broadcast details are listed below.
Tale of the tape
Head to head
Australia 99 wins
New Zealand 32
At GIO Stadium
Australia 1 win
New Zealand 0
Past 8 matches
Australia 5 wins
New Zealand 3
Australia def New Zealand 58-0, Westpac Stadium Wellington, 2007
New Zealand def Australia 49-25, Brisbane Cricket Ground, 1952
Friday, May 5
Australian Kangaroos vs New Zealand Kiwis
Sydney 7.30pm LIVE on Nine
Brisbane 7.30pm LIVE on Nine
Melbourne 7.30pm LIVE on 9GEM
Adelaide 7.00pm LIVE on 9GEM
Perth 5.30pm LIVE on 9GEM
Harvey Norman Jillaroos vs Kiwi Silver Ferns
Sydney 10.10pm on Nine
Brisbane 10.10pm on Nine
Melbourne 10.10pm on 9GEM
Adelaide 9.40pm on 9GEM
Perth 8.10pm on 9GEM