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Comment: Improved Kiwis will push the mystery Kangaroos in Perth

The Roar logo The Roar 12/10/2016 Greg Prichard

Jared Waerea-Hargreaves returns to the Kiwi Test team. © Paul Thomas/Getty Images Jared Waerea-Hargreaves returns to the Kiwi Test team. Saturday night’s Test match between Australia and New Zealand threatens to be a tricky one for the Kangaroos when you consider the changes to the two teams since they last met.

The Kiwis have named their team for the game at nib Stadium in Perth, so their changes are already there in black and white.

The Aussies are yet to name their side, but it is already clear, since the extended squad for the Four Nations squad is known, where the changes will be. It’s just a matter of who, exactly, comes in.

The bottom line is that the New Zealand team will be stronger than the one which lost 16-0 to Australia in Newcastle in May, and the Australian team will be…

It is difficult to actually say it will be weaker, when you consider the quality of the players who are vying to fill the vacancies, but it is fair to say – at the very least – it won’t be any stronger.

Gone from the 17-man squad that won in May are winger Semi Radradra, prop Paul Gallen, lock Corey Parker and bench forwards Josh McGuire and James Tamou.

All five could have been picked and had this been a one-off Test to finish the season, with no Four Nations tournament to follow, both Gallen and the retiring Parker could have been given a deserved farewell Test.

But the fact Parker is exiting the game and Gallen is now 35 meant they were overlooked for the sake of future plans, with the Four Nations a valuable tool for blooding new players or giving those who are only mildly experienced at Test level more experience ahead of next year’s World Cup.

McGuire and Tamou were simply dropped, while Radradra would certainly be in the team if he didn’t have a well-documented off-field issue hanging over his head.

The Aussies also don’t have prop Aaron Woods or winger Josh Mansour to consider for this game.

Members of the Kangaroos Four Nations Squad, (L-R) Trent Merrin, Greg Inglis, Sam Thaiday and Johnathan Thurston, assemble for a team photograph. © AAP Image/Paul Miller Members of the Kangaroos Four Nations Squad, (L-R) Trent Merrin, Greg Inglis, Sam Thaiday and Johnathan Thurston, assemble for a team photograph. They are both in the Four Nations squad, but each planned his wedding for this weekend before the game against the Kiwis was arranged.

And Andrew Fifita would surely be in the Four Nations squad and would presumably make the 17 for this game were he not being ostracised himself.

Valentine Holmes is an obvious contender for the vacant wing spot, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Australian coach Mal Meninga picked fullback Matt Moylan there.

Moylan is such a smart and adaptable player, he would handle it, and at the same time it would increase the cover for key positions.

Michael Morgan will already be on the bench as cover for the halves and fullback, but there is no harm in having more cover if it is a legitimate selection on overall form.

Shannon Boyd and David Klemmer appear to be competing for Gallen’s spot, while Trent Merrin looks the likely selection at lock.

Presuming Sam Thaiday holds his place on the bench alongside Morgan, whoever doesn’t start out of Boyd and Klemmer will probably be competing with Boyd Cordner and Tyson Frizell for the other two bench spots.

Meanwhile, there is definitely only upside for New Zealand.

Solomone Kata and Shaun Kenny-Dowall have come into the centres for Tohu Harris, a second-rower who played in the centres in May, and Gerard Beale.

Harris goes back to the second-row for this game. Beale has been named at number 19 in a 19-man squad and presumably won’t make the cut.

Thomas Leuluai is in for Kodi Nikorima at five-eighth and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves replaces Adam Blair at prop, while Issac Luke returns at hooker for Lewis Brown.

Blair, Brown and Manu Ma’u, who filled the second-row spot that was vacated by the switch of Harris in May, all drop back to the bench.

The bench in May comprised Greg Eastwood, Martin Taupau, Sam Moa and Kenny Bromwich. This time around it will be Brown, Taupau, Ma’u and Blair. That is a stronger quartet.

New Zealand obviously didn’t do much in attack against Australia in May, but their defence wasn’t bad.

The Aussies scored three tries, but after two of those came in the first half the last came right at the end of the game.

The key to the game, for the Kiwis at least, will be – surprise, surprise – halfback Shaun Johnson.

We all know he can be hot and cold, but if he performs in this game it could be a belter of an entree to the Four Nations.

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