A new era, of sorts, begins for both the Australian Kangaroos and New Zealand Kiwis this Saturday when they face off in a Trans-Tasman Test in Perth.
In the final hit-out for both sides before heading over to the United Kingdom for the 2016 Four Nations tournament, both sides of the Tasman will see plenty of change when the teams take the field at nib Stadium, with a number of intriguing storylines to follow.
For the Kangaroos, Saturday’s game will represent a somewhat changing of the guard, with regulars such as Paul Gallen, Corey Parker and James Tamou all not included.
Several new players will all line up for the green and gold for the first time, but the key spine of Darius Boyd, Jonathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith remains the same — as per the successful Kangaroos ANZAC Test side earlier in the year.
The Kiwis too will see a great deal of change and unfamiliarity for Saturday’s game — starting with Coach David Kidwell, who prepares for his first match in charge of the side since being named Head Coach back in early September. Kidwell is certainly familiar with the national team, though, having fulfilled his role as an Assistant Coach since 2014.
With a 24-man squad to choose from, much of the talk heading into the match for the Kiwis has been in regards to the players unavailable, with the likes of Kieran Foran, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Peta Hiku and Dean Whare all to miss the match and Four Nations.
While much of the forward pack will remain the same from the Kiwis’ ANZAC Test side (only Sam Moa and Kenny Bromwich not named in the squad), just thre of the starting back seven will feature on Saturday for the game, with Solomone Kata and Jordan Rapana on debut. Shaun Kenny-Dowall also returns to the team after missing out with injury earlier in the year, while Warriors duo Thomas Leuluai and Shaun Johnson are the halves.
How those changes affect the Kiwis’ preparations, as well as cohesion prior to the Four Nations tournament, will perhaps be the most telling storyline of them all on the night.
If New Zealand's back-line can fire as it has done in so many recent end-of-season matches against the Kangaroos, then there's no doubting they've got the forward pack to get the job done. However, if not, look for the Kangaroos' experience to come to the fore on the night.
Date — Saturday, October 15
Time — 8:10pm AEDT (5:10pm local time)
Venue — nib Stadium, Perth, Australia
TV — Live coverage via Channel 9 (check local guides)
Referee — Matt Cecchin
Touch Judges — Jeff Younis, Shane Rehm
Review Officials — Bernard Sutton, Luke Patten and Steve Chiddy
Darius Boyd, Shannon Boyd, Boyd Cordner, Cooper Cronk, Josh Dugan, Blake Ferguson, Jake Friend, Tyson Frizell, Matt Gillett, Valentine Holmes, Greg Inglis, David Klemmer, James Maloney, Josh Mansour, Trent Merrin, Michael Morgan, Matt Moylan, Justin O’Neill, Josh Papalii, Matt Scott, Cameron Smith, Sam Thaiday, Jonathan Thurston, Aaron Woods (six to omit).
1. Jordan Kahu 2. Jason Nightingale 3. Solomone Kata 4. Shaun Kenny-Dowall 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Thomas Leuluai 7. Shaun Johnson 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Isaac Luke 10. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 11. Kevin Proctor 12. Tohu Harris 13. Jason Taumalolo (14. Lewis Brown 15. Martin Taupau 16. Manu Ma’u 17. Adam Blair 18. Joseph Tapine 19. Gerard Beale)
2016 ANZAC Test — Australia 16 def. New Zealand 0
2015 ANZAC Test — New Zealand 26 def. Australia 12
2014 Four Nations — New Zealand 22 def. Australia 18
2014 Four Nations — New Zealand 30 def. Australia 12
2014 ANZAC Test — Australia 30 def. New Zealand 18
WHAT THEY SAID
"Coaches want to put their fingerprints on their football teams. You look at Mal Meninga, he played with a lot of pride and passion in his career and that is what he has brought to the Australian team as coach. David Kidwell is one of the most passionate New Zealanders with the aggression he brought to their football team, [and] he will bring the same thing as coach." — Cooper Cronk (Kangaroos) on Kiwis Coach David Kidwell
"It's a Test match against Australia, you don't get a bigger challenge than that. If we take this game lightly, Australia are a ruthless team that will make you pay. So we're going to give it the respect it deserves and that's playing our best and turning up for the huge challenge that's in front of us." — Tohu Harris (Kiwis) on the Trans-Tasman Test
"We're in the green and gold jersey so you've always got a role to play and a role to fill playing in such a great team. Representating your country, you always want to be doing the best you can, and for the jersey." — Tyson Frizell (Kangaroos) on his potential debut