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Could be all black for Kiwis

It has been 14 long years since New Zealand have defeated Australia in a rugby league Test match in April.

The Kiwis have named a pretty good side, but are they capable of lifting in front of a packed Eden Park?

The Kangaroos are favoured to win by more than 13 points, according to most betting agencies, so it’s imperative the home team produces an 80-minute effort.

NZ coach Steve Kearney hit the nail on the head when he said that with 12 Queensland players in the Australian team he could understand perfectly why NSW have battled on the State of Origin stage.

There may be no Darren Lockyer, but the likes of Smith, Thaiday, Cronk, Thurston, Hodges, Inglis and Slater represent a formidable combination.

Add Gallen, Lewis and Uate to the mix and it could be a long night for the black and whites.

On paper, New Zealand boast a number of quality players such as Mannering, Nightingale, Kenny-Dowall, Pritchard, Blair, Warera-Hargreaves and Smith, but the big question is whether or not debutants Josh Hoffman, Shaun Johnson and Jess Bromwich can deliver.

Benji Marshall, who hasn’t fired a shot since a below-par performance for the Tigers when they succumbed to the Warriors in the finals last year, has to find something after a miserable Four Nations campaign in England.

There are some handy players on the bench for both teams, but all eyes will be on James Tamou, who knocked back the chance to represent New Zealand to play for Australia.

If the Kiwis and Kangaroos bring their A grade game to the table, then it could be the green and golds by 8-10 points.

City Origin v Country Origin:

City won’t lie down, but Country clearly have the stronger side and are deserved favourites.

Country have certainly taken form into account as incumbent NSW hooker Michael Ennis couldn’t make the side — even when injury forced Danny Buderus out of the side.

There will be plenty of passion in the game with Origin spots up for grabs.

Country have 13 players with Test or State of Origin experience, while City have nine.

Powerhouse forwards Tom Learoyd-Lahrs and Tariq Sims are good enough to make the NSW team, but could only make the bench for Country.

Fellow forward Trent Merrin, who has played for NSW, comes off the bench as well for Country to illustrate their depth.

Chris Lawrence, Jarryd Hayne, Mitchell Pearce, Keith Galloway, Tim Mannah, Robbie Farah and Feleti Mateo are in contention to play for NSW and City’s hopes rest on their shoulders.

Todd Carney, Jarrod Mullen, Beau Scott, Michael Weyman, Ben Creagh, Greg Bird and the Morris twins could seal a Blues spot if Country gets over the line.

The bookies envisage a comfortable win for Country, but City can keep them honest on the scoreboard if they gell.


Let’s not beat around the bush. Of the games scheduled in Round 4, Carlton, Collingwood, Adelaide and Geelong are certainties.

Just like Carlton, Essendon boast an unbeaten record — but the Blues are in irresistible form.

Collingwood are missing key players as they prepare for the Anzac Day clash against the Bombers, but they will still prove too good for the visiting Port Adelaide, who are much better than the 2011 version.

Adelaide are stinging after a heavy defeat against Hawthorn at the MCG and, unfortunately for the visiting Greater Western Sydney, they could pay dearly, especially if twin towers Taylor Walker and Kurt Trippett fire in front of goal for the Crows.

Richmond were impressive winners when they faced Geelong at Simmonds Stadium during the NAB Cup, but it should be a different story when the Cats, who will unveil their 2011 premiership flag, host the Tigers, who have been cannon fodder for Geelong in recent years.

Fremantle didn’t win a game in Melbourne last year, but they will be out to give their new coach Ross Lyon a win over his former club St Kilda.

The Dockers have made an encouraging start to 2012 and could spring an upset,but you get the feeling that the Saints have been eyeing this game for a long time and are about to unleash.

The West Coast-Hawthorn match is a mouth-watering prospect and it’s no easy task splitting the teams.

The Eagles welcome back Darren Glass, Matthew Priddis and Matthew Rosa, and perhaps have the edge in the ruck department with Dean Cox and Nic Naitanui.

However, the Hawks are a major contender this season and, although playing in Perth, will be tough and they have two things in their favour.

West Coast have had a soft start to the season with wins against the Western Bulldogs, Melbourne and GWS, while the Hawks were devastating as they systematically dismantled the in-form Adelaide last weekend.

Brisbane are favourites for QClash III against Gold Coast at the Gabba, but you’ve got to treat the Suns with the utmost respect after giving Essendon a major fright last weekend.

Jonathan Brown plays his first game of the season at home, while Lions teammate Simon Black returns from injury.

Not only can Gary Ablett make life tough for Brisbane, but Campbell Brown makes a welcome return for the Suns.

The Lions have kicked just 14 goals in their past two games, so that is an aspect of their game they must improve or else Gold Coast could crack it for their first win of the season.

North Melbourne were super impressive after rolling Geelong last weekend and will fancy their chances at the SCG against a Sydney outfit minus Adam Goodes.

The unbeaten Swans can never be under-estimated, but the Kangaroos have seemingly found another gear this season and had Hamish McIntosh hit the target after the final siren against Essendon in Round 1 they, too, would be 3-0.

Swans trio Josh Kennedy, Sam Reid and Kieran Jack are playing just as well as Kangaroos threesome Drew Petrie, Brent Harvey and Andrew Swallow.

Melbourne will pay tribute to the late Jim Stynes when they strive to break the ice in 2012 against the Western Bulldogs, who are also winless after three games.

Apart from the Giants, the Bulldogs are the lowest scoring side so far this season. The Demons have conceded the most points.

The Demons are paying around $3.00, which is good value as the Bulldogs are missing key defenders Brian Lake, Tom Williams and Dale Morris.

The Bulldogs were terrible against St Kilda last weekend and will be primed for redemption.

Super Rugby

The Highlanders, who had the bye last week, are coming fifth and should make up for their last-start defeat at home against the Stormers when they entertain the disappointing Blues.

The Blues are facing their fifth straight loss and, with injuries proving a nemesis, it would come as a huge shock if the Highlanders didn’t avenge a 33-16 defeat suffered last year in Auckland.

The unbeaten run of the Stormers came to an end last weekend against the Crusaders in Christchurch, and injuries could hinder their hopes against the Reds in Brisbane.

Key players Andries Bekker and Jean de Villiers are out of the Stormers line up, but they still start the Round 9 clash against the 2011 champions as favourites.

The Reds, a difficult commodity at Suncorp Stadium, cannot afford a loss as they strive to make the final six and, with radar-boot Mike Harris back on deck, they’re capable of pushing the Stormers.

The Hurricanes crunched the Sharks a fortnight ago and after last week’s bye are aiming to make it back-to- back wins at home for the first time.

The Wellington-based outfit are in sixth place, but sitting right behind them in seventh spot are the Crusaders, who will be out to celebrate Dan Carter’s 100th appearance for the Christchurch franchise with a win.

It should be an intriguing battle with the counter-attacking Hurricanes up against the kicking-game of the Crusaders.

Rocky Elsom finally makes his return for the Waratahs as they take on the Rebels in Sydney.

The NSW outfit won the Round 2 clash 35-19 in Melbourne and not even James O’Connor and Kurtley Beale, who plays against his old side for the first time, will prevent them from making it a double in 2012.

The Sharks, who have been highly competitive this season and were far from disgraced on their recent tour of Australasia, are sitting in eighth place and await the visit of the Chiefs, the competition leaders.

The Sharks are fresh from a win over the Blues in Auckland, while the Chiefs made it six straight wins with a 39-33 victory over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.

If the Sharks produce the goods in attack and defence they can win, while the Chiefs only have to fine tune its defensive game as their attacking game is rolling along nicely.

The Brumbies have shown marked improvement under former South African coach Jake White. However, facing the in-form Bulls in their opening match on their South African excursion is a massive task.

The Brumbies are sitting in third place and will enhance their finals prospects immeasurably if they can topple the Bulls and the Lions next week.

The Blues, surprisingly, and the Stormers are the only teams to have defeated the fourth-placed Bulls this season and the Pretoria-based team should prevail before heading off to Australasia.

Based on the standings, the Bulls-Brumbies clash is the match of the round, but the Australian team will be lucky to get within 12 points.





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