Rugby League - New Zealand coach Kearney confident of beating Aussies

New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney claims his young side have closed the gap on Australia and is confident they can snap a five-game losing run at Canberra Stadium on Friday.

PA Sport
Rugby League - New Zealand coach Kearney confident of beating Aussies

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Stephen Kearney is hoping New Zealand can beat Australia

The Kiwis enter the Anzac Test without injured stars Sonny Bill Williams (knee) and Benji Marshall (toe) and have been written off by the bookies and most pundits. But Kearney exuded an air of quiet confidence at the pre-match press conference at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

"We've gotten closer with our performances over the last three Anzac Day Tests and certainly up in Townsville (last October)," Kearney said. "Eighty per cent of the group have been there for the last three or four years and we've got some really good talent coming through and we believe and give ourselves a really good opportunity tomorrow night."

But the stats don't make pretty reading for the Kiwis. They haven't won a one-off Test against Australia since 1998 and have lost their past five matches against Tim Sheens' side. Asked why the Kiwis have traditionally struggled in the annual Anzac Test, Kearney said the fact the bulk of the Australian side are Queenslanders is a major advantage for the Kangaroos.

"For us looking at the Australian side they've got a number of players in there who make up the Queensland side and they've had the opportunity to play together three times a year for the last seven years and they know what to do (when the game is on the line)," he said.

"But as I've mentioned many times, we're not far off but we've just got to be better and that's the plan tomorrow night."

Asked if he has been forced to alter the Kiwis' game plan following Marshall's withdrawal, Kearney warned the Kangaroos to expect a physical onslaught and backed new halves Kieran Foran and Shaun Johnson to shine.

"It's pretty obvious where our strength is, we've got some pretty big forwards who are in pretty good form at the minute and a dummy-half who can trouble a defensive line if he's given an opportunity, and that's not much different to how we've played over the last few years," he said.

"I'm really excited about seeing Kieran (Foran) and Shaun (Johnson) together. Kieran's come into the camp and obviously it's disappointing not to have Benji there but I think it's given Kieran an opportunity to assume a bit more responsibility in the running of the group and we've certainly seen that this week."

Meanwhile, Sheens is adamant complacency won't be a factor for his men despite entering as heavy pre-match favourites, saying: "We've talked about that, living up to their reputation and performing in the jumper."

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