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Meninga hopes short pitch won't hurt final

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 19/11/2016 Ian McCullough

Mal Meninga says his Australian players are excited to be playing at Anfield in the Four Nations final but urged referee Ben Cummins to not have his judgement of the 10-metre rule clouded by the smaller pitch.

The Kangaroos players got their first look at the famous home of Liverpool FC ahead of Sunday's decider (0130, Monday AEDT).

Due to safety concerns for the players, the pitch has been modified to 91 metres - nine short of the standard field size - and the in-goal areas are just five metres deep.

At the London Stadium last week there was some early confusion from players and officials with the gap between the 30 and 40 metre markings only seven.

But Meninga hopes NRL whistleblower Cummins will be experienced enough to get the tackle retreating distance correct despite the altered pitch size.

"With it being a short field I am hoping the 10 metres is refereed really well because that is fair on both teams," Meninga said.

"The 10 metres is pretty crucial to how you referee the game.

"It's a a genuine issue if we're back too many because both teams will be coming off their back fence all the time in the game."

"If we get that 10 metres right then I'm thinking it'll be a very entertaining game."

Australia playmakers Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston spent the final captain's run session working on their kicking game but Meninga said he didn't expect the pitch size to make a significant difference.

"You still have to catch the ball, run with the ball still got to tackle and still have to kick it," he said.

"The kicking game is really important which is why we have been practicing out here.

"With a shorter field you have to get the kicking tempo right and so you land the ball on the field of play."

The game will be the first time Anfield has hosted a rugby league Test match and Meninga - an avid Liverpool fan - said there's a genuine excitement amongst the players about playing at one of the world's most famous football venues.

"I'd imagine both sides are looking forward to playing on this hallowed turf and the buzz around the Australian camp is excellent," he said.

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