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NZ still the team to beat: Cronk

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 14/11/2016 Ian McCullough

Cooper Cronk celebrates victory in the Four Nations match between England and Australian Kangaroos at Olympic Stadium on November 13, 2016 in London, United Kingdom. © Bryn Lennon/Getty Images Cooper Cronk celebrates victory in the Four Nations match between England and Australian Kangaroos at Olympic Stadium on November 13, 2016 in London, United Kingdom. Australia halfback Cooper Cronk maintains New Zealand deserve to be viewed as the best team in the world ahead of Sunday's Four Nations final at Anfield.

Australia have improved ominously as the tournament has progressed and produced their most complete display in the second half of Sunday's 36-18 win over England in London.

David Kidwell's Kiwis have only played well in patches in their three games and were held to a shock draw by minnows Scotland on Friday.

However, it was enough to seal their spot in the decider having beaten the English 17-16 in their opening match before losing to Australia in their second.

A win for the Kangaroos will see them usurp New Zealand as the world's No.1 team and also regain the Four Nations title they surrendered in 2014, but contrary to the form book, Cronk maintains Kidwell's men are still the team to beat.

"If they had won by 50 points or drawn, you're not really concerned because they're the best team in the world at the moment, there's no doubt about that," Cronk said.

"They have class across the field. They've got the best player in the NRL from this season (Jason Taumalolo), they've got the best prop in Jesse Bromwich and they've got Shaun Johnson who is electric on his day."

New Zealand will be without experienced five-eighth Thomas Leuluai, who has a fractured jaw, but Cronk believes his Melbourne teammate Tohu Harris would be the perfect replacement if he's switched from the back row.

Harris is in a battle for the position with Penrith youngster Te Maire Martin who made his debut from the bench against the Scots.

"Tohu has the ability to play in a different position and he's an elite player no matter what number he has on the back of his jersey," Cronk said.

"I also think they have some depth in their squad. So we'll cater for whatever team New Zealand throw at us."

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