It’s the Four Nations final between Australia and New Zealand tomorrow (Saturday), so to preview the final, TotalRL.com is taking a look at four major talking points surrounding the final to give you the best coverage of the event.
Revenge will likely be on the cards for Australia after their opening weekend defeat to the Kiwis – but New Zealand will still be smarting after losing the World Cup Final to the Kangaroos at Old Trafford last November.
So, without further ado, here’s our four-point take on what is sure to be a fantastic game of Rugby League.
1. The neutral refereeing appointment
After the drama of the second weekend of the tournament, the orgainsers have reverted to type and plumped for a neutral referee to take charge of the Four Nations final. With England losing out in controversial circumstances under the officiating of Australia’s Gerard Sutton, calls for neutral referees to be placed back in charge have clearly shone through. Both Sutton and Henry Perenara were in the mix to referee the game, but it is Phil Bentham who will take charge at Wellington.
Regardless of what happens in the final, it leaves no possibility for the temptation to question refereeing appointments – which has been perhaps the biggest talking point throughout the entire tournament.
2. The Australian health
Not so much the entire country, more the quartet of players who have been battling a virus all week. After Greg Inglis withdrew at half-time in game one of the Four Nations, concerns have been lingering all week over what Australia will do regarding the likes of Cooper Cronk and Daly Cherry-Evans, who have struggled with the virus that has plagued the camp.
Tim Sheens is adamant that those fears have now subsided, but it is hard to imagine how the Australians who have been ill could have been able to compete in full-intensity training all week. Will that be an area that the Kiwis could potentially exploit?
3. Revenge missions for both sides
The immediacy of Australia’s defeat to New Zealand just three weeks ago will leave a sour taste in the mouth of Tim Sheens’ men – who don’t like losing very often. However, New Zealand have gradually improved all the way through this tournament, and they too have their own mission of revenge on the agenda.
After being arguably the team of the tournament in last year’s World Cup – where the Kiwis looked practically invincible – they came desperately short in the final, losing out 34-2 to the Australians at Old Trafford. The Kiwis haven’t beaten Australia in two consecutive games since 1954 – meaning a little bit of history is waiting to be made should the Kiwis get the job done in Wellington.
4. No England, but still a great final in store
Sure, England have fallen short at the final hurdle once again, via defeats to both Australia and New Zealand in the last two weeks. But that shouldn’t take any gloss off what is sure to be a brilliant Four Nations final. Both sides will be massively up for it, and it promises to be a thriller. The question is, who will win?