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Thurston expects to be targeted by Kiwis

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 4/11/2016 Ian Laybourn
Johnathan Thurston © Getty Images Johnathan Thurston

Johnathan Thurston expects to be a target on his return the the Australian team for their second round Four Nations Test against the Kiwis.

The Golden Boot holder was among a handful of key players rested by coach Mal Meninga for last Friday's opening 54-12 win over Scotland to freshen them up.

"I didn't need the rest but he decided not to play a few of the boys and I was one of them," said Thurston, who was the subject of a series of questionable hits from the Kiwis during his side's 26-6 victory in Perth in October.

Meninga was particularly incensed by a late tackle by Jared Waerea-Hargreaves in that match and, although the Sydney Roosters prop is ruled out of Saturday's game through injury, Thurston is still anticipating a tough ride.

"I'm expecting it to be nice and tough," he said.

"We played them before we came over here and they got hold of me a couple of times and no doubt it won't be any different.

"I might have to try and give them one back but I don't think I'm big enough."

New Zealand assistant coach Willie Poching, the former Leeds, Warrington and Hull KR number two, admits his side will need to close down the threat of Thurston to give themselves a chance of avoiding a third successive defeat by the Kangaroos in 2016.

Thurston is expecting the Kiwis to be much improved from the team that lost in Perth but warns that Australia have their sights set on regaining both the Four Nations title and their world number one ranking.

"The Kiwis are always strong in these types of tournament and the more games they play together the better they get," Thurston said

"People may forget that they're the holders but I haven't forgot. They're also the number one ranked team in world rugby league and that's a title that we'd like to get back."

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