A new-look Kangaroos side will take to the field in New Zealand on Saturday afternoon to face the Kiwis in the annual end-of-season test at Mt Smart Stadium.
This is the first time that the Kangaroos have stepped out since winning the 2017 World Cup final and wholesale changes have been made to that squad, largely because of retirement.
The more-experienced Kiwis were offered an ideal opportunity to notch a rare win over their fierce cross-Tasman rivals, but following the withdrawals of key players Isaac Luke and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and several other notable retirements, they face a typically tough task.
Australia simply need to click to win this test and they remain $1.38 favourites to defeat New Zealand ($3.10) on Saturday.
The depth of rugby league talent in Australia is obviously second-to-none and coach Mal Meninga has been spoiled for choice ahead of this one-off test with New Zealand.
Cameron Smith, Billy Slater, Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk are all irreplaceable, but their retirements from representative football have allowed for a young, fast and in-form group of players to gain passage into the Australian squad and each will be eager to make an impression in this test.
Damien Cook, James Tedesco, Luke Keary and Latrell Mitchell have all been rewarded for outstanding seasons with positions in the Kangaroos side, while Daly Cherry-Evans has also reaped the benefits of the halves clearance by gaining a recall.
1. James Tedesco, 2. Dane Gagai, 3. Latrell Mitchell, 4. Tom Trbojevic, 5. Valentine Holmes, 6. Luke Keary, 7. Daly Cherry-Evans, 8. David Klemmer, 9. Damien Cook, 10. Jordan McLean, 11. Boyd Cordner (C), 12. Felise Kaufusi, 13. Josh McGuire.
Interchange: 14. Ben Hunt, 15. Jake Trbojevic, 16. Tyson Frizell, 17 Aaron Woods.
Reserves: 18. Tyrone Peachey, 19. Reagan Campbell-Gillard
It is always a tough ask of New Zealand to line up opposite Australia and compete effectively for 80 minutes, and that is sure to be the case again on Saturday afternoon.
To their credit, the Kiwis have managed several pleasing results against Australia through the last decade, but with so much experience now unavailable through retirement coupled with the loss of two current stars, things do look quite dire this time around.
Owing to the vacancies left by the elder statesmen, exciting players like Brandon Smith, Jahrome Hughes and Joseph Manu all look set to be handed starts. Penrith’s Dallin Watene-Zelezniak has been handed the captaincy for the first time.
1. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (c), 2. Ken Maumalo, 3. Esan Marsters, 4. Joseph Manu, 5. Jordan Rapana, 6. Shaun Johnson, 7. Kodi Nikorima, 8. Jesse Bromwich, 9. Brandon Smith, 10. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, 11. Kevin Proctor, 12. Isaac Liu, 13. James Fisher-Harris
Interchange: 14. Kenny Bromwich, 15. Leeson Ah Mau, 16. Martin Taupau, 17. Adam Blair, 18 Peta Hiku, 19. Jahrome Hughes
Kangaroos vs Kiwis Betting
There is little value remaining for the Kangaroos in head-to-head betting, but they do represent good value to cover a line set at only eight points ($1.90).
Australia’s backline boasts some of Rugby League’s fastest players and given the lion’s share of those performed extremely well on the Origin stage this year, we could be in for an absolute try-fest. Australia to win this test by 13 points or more does look extremely appealing at $2.40.
Tip: Australia 13+ ($2.40)