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Kiwis' bash-attack a thing of the past

Published: 7:55AM Saturday November 06, 2010 Source: NZPA

The Kiwis are likely to deliver a more sophisticated strategy against the Kangaroos tonight than their 1988 predecessors adopted on the only other occasion a league Test has been stage at the rugby stronghold of Eden Park.

New Zealand went into the World Cup final against Australia 22 years ago brimming with confidence, partly because of home advantage, partly because of an upset they engineered under new coach Tony Gordon over the Kangaroos in a one-off Test in Brisbane the previous year.

However, the overly aggressive approach the Kiwis took into the final was no match for the clinical professionalism of the Wally Lewis-led Kangaroos, who ran out 25-12 winners.

A bash-'em-up attitude has surfaced in other New Zealand teams when facing their trans-Tasman rivals, but Jeremy Smith, who will run out at lock for the Kiwis at Eden Park, said something more was needed to get past the Kangaroos.

"It's still a physical encounter when we play the Aussies," he said.

"But I think there's a lot more than just bashing them to beat them."

Prop Adam Blair agreed.

"You do need more than that these days, because they're a great team," he said.

"We still go out there with the attitude that we're going to bash them up, but in the end we have to play some smart footy."

For Blair, the key to downing Australia would be the tried and true tactics of "completing sets, putting pressure on them and hopefully making them make some errors".

The Kiwi class of 2010 have the background to produce the smart football needed to win big matches.

All but two of their starting 13 have played in a NRL or English Super League grand final.

Surprisingly, this is more than for the Australian run-on side, who have only eight with grand final experience.

Blair, 24, was rested for the 76-12 win over Papua New Guinea last weekend and his return is the only change to the starting 13.

Running out at Eden Park won't be a new experience the 19-Test Melbourne frontrower, who has played rugby there, although in less modern surroundings than in an arena newly refurbished for next year's rugby World Cup.

"I think I played one game in my junior days," he said.

"I was pretty small and it was concrete seats, I remember, and that's about it."

While Australian coach Tim Sheens might had made a host of changes to his side, Blair didn't believe it would make much difference to the challenge the Kiwis would face.

"They're all great players," he said.

"They get picked in the Australian team because they're all great players. Whoever they put in there, it's going to be a tough game. It's a Test match."

New Zealand: Lance Hohaia, Jason Nightingale, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Junior Sa'u, Sam Perrett, Benji Marshall (captain), Nathan Fien, Frank Paul Nuuausala, Thomas Leuluai, Adam Blair, Sika Manu, Simon Mannering, Jeremy Smith

Interchange: Issac Luke, Greg Eastwood, Frank Pritchard, Ben Matulino; 18th man: Bronson Harrison

Australia: Darius Boyd, Brett Morris, Brent Tate, Chris Lawrence, Lote Tuqiri, Todd Carney, Cooper Cronk, Matthew Scott, Cameron Smith (captain), David Shillington, Greg Bird, Sam Thaiday, Paul Gallen

Interchange: Dean Young, Petero Civoniceva, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, Robbie Farah, Kurt Gidley (one to be omitted)