State of Origin looms over Anzac results
WHEN looking for answers to why New Zealand has failed to win an Anzac test in the last 14 years, it's hard to ignore the words state and origin.
The Kiwis might have assembled one of its strongest sides in recent history to face Australia at Eden Park tomorrow night, but just two training runs together give them little time to sort out combinations and tactics.
The timeframe is the same for the Kangaroos, but they have the luxury of slotting in 10 Queensland State of Origin players, including six of the seven in the backline.
On top of that, the spine is principally made up of Melbourne Storm players with Cameron Smith at hooker, Cooper Cronk at halfback and Billy Slater at fullback.
The fourth is Johnathan Thurston, who will suit up at five-eighth in place of retired playmaker Darren Lockyer, and he's played 22 tests and 21 Origin matches for Queensland.
By comparison, the Kiwis might have an exciting quartet in the key positions, but two of them, Josh Hoffman (fullback) and Shaun Johnson (halfback), will be making their international debuts.
Slater admitted the Aussies had an advantage through consistency of players, but said that didn't mean they only had to turn up to take home the trophy.
"We do have some good combinations, and we've played a bit of football together over the past few years," Slater said.
"But it's about our attitude and getting out there and starting really well. We're hoping to start tough and earn the right to use those combinations and throw the ball around."
The Kiwis have picked a side they hope can contain that, with plenty of emphasis on defence.
Assistant coach Tony Iro said the players had also met twice in Sydney in recent weeks to discuss how they could combat the understanding the Australian players have with each other.
"We are never going to replicate the advantage the Australians have in that area," Iro said. "Their three main players play together at club level as well. In terms of that, we just have to do our best and make sure we do as much as we can before the week in camp.
"We had a couple of meetings with our senior group in Sydney about how we want to play the game. They have taken a bit more ownership in terms of leading the team around the park and how they want to play football.
"There are a few little unknowns for us that the Australians probably don't have to encounter, but we are confident that Benji (Marshall) and the senior boys can execute a game plan that they have basically come up with themselves."