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Kiwis' Foran shapes as key in Anzac Test

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 4/05/2017 Matt Encarnacion

Not since Foran helped New Zealand to a third successive win over the Kangaroos in his last Test in 2015 have the Kiwis toppled their trans-Tasman counterparts. © Hannah Peters/Getty Images Not since Foran helped New Zealand to a third successive win over the Kangaroos in his last Test in 2015 have the Kiwis toppled their trans-Tasman counterparts. He's the man who holds the destiny of his club in one hand, and that of his country in the other.

After almost single-handedly changing the course of the Warriors' NRL season with his return from injury, former Kiwis captain Kieran Foran shapes as the key figure in Friday's Test against Australia in Canberra.

Not since Foran helped New Zealand to a third successive win over the Kangaroos in his last Test in 2015 have the Kiwis toppled their trans-Tasman counterparts.

However, Foran's storied return to the NRL this season has the world's No.1-ranked nation on high alert in the final instalment of the mid-season Anzac Test.

Foran's won 10 of his past 11 Tests for the Kiwis.

"He's one of their leaders, one of the game's best players," Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga said.

"He adds a bit of structure, takes a bit of pressure off Shaun (Johnson) and Issac Luke, as well, from the nine position.

"He helps straighten the play up, he's a great player, courageous player.

"I'm pretty sure everyone's happy he's back in the black and white."

Foran's comeback from a two-year absence, together with the returns of clubmates Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Simon Mannering from injury, has Kiwis coach David Kidwell confident of an upset.

The trio's inclusion are among eight changes to the side whipped 26-6 in the Four Nations final last year - a campaign that included a shock loss to tier-two nation Scotland.

Kidwell is banking on his returning stars to arrest a worrying four-game slide against Australia.

"Just the way they've been around the group - their leadership is of high standard," Kidwell said.

"We've had to build really tight, fast, and prepare well. I think it's going to be one of the classic tests tomorrow."

In contrast, Kangaroos captain Cameron Smith - who will join Darren Lockyer as the only Australians to play 50 Tests - was confident in their settled squad.

Injuries to Matt Scott, Greg Inglis and Shannon Boyd forced Meninga into making just three changes to his side, with Andrew Fifita, Will Chambers and Jake Trbojevic called in.

"There hasn't been a whole lot that we've changed since the last time we played together," Smith said.

"We've got similar personnel - we've got (14) of the 17 that played in the Four Nations final.

"We're playing against a very different Kiwi team this time around but we've had a bit of vision from the games they've played this year, just on their key players.

"I think more so than anything, we just had to have a bit of discussion around our defensive structures and the best way to approach our defence tomorrow night."

STATS THAT MATTER

* Australia are looking to become the first international rugby league team to win 100 Tests against an opposing nation.

* Of the 18 one-off mid-season Tests played since 1998, Australia have won 16 - 11 of them by 16 points or more.

* Australia have conceded eight points or less in their past four matches against New Zealand; they have not done so in five straight matches since 1983.

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