Australia v New Zealand
Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Friday, 7.30pm

In that parallel universe where rugby league Tests are decided on paper, this one doesn't end well for the New Zealanders.

As Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens has stuck solid with the men who won him a World Cup just six months ago, Kiwis mentor Stephen Kearney has stocked his side with players he thinks can be world champions in 2017.

The Kiwis boast half the amount of Test experience of their Aussie counterparts (264 games to 133) but the chasm between the two sides becomes more evident when you take Simon Mannering, Adam Blair, Jason Nightingale and Greg Eastwood out of the equation: The remaining 14 members of the New Zealand squad have played three more Tests combined than Kangaroos captain Cameron Smith (40-37).

With six debutants and just five remaining players from the side that contested November's World Cup Final, it's an extraordinary clean-out by Kearney who was reappointed as Kiwi coach in February for a further two years with an option for another two that would take him through to the next World Cup to be hosted in Australia and New Zealand.

With debutants in Peta Hiku, Isaac John, Ben Henry, Siliva Havili, Martin Taupau and Kenny Bromwich, Kearney certainly appears to be working towards a four-year plan, although injuries have also decimated his squad.

Hooker Issac Luke remains sidelined with a shoulder injury, Kieran Foran went down with a knee injury the week before the side was named and Frank Pritchard is nursing a torn pectoral muscle that will keep him off the field for the majority of the season. Jeremy Smith, Sam McKendry, Josh Hoffman and Jason Taumalolo were also unavailable but the omissions of Alex Glenn, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Ben Matulino, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Manu Vatuvei and Frank-Paul Nuuausala raised eyebrows on both sides of the Tasman.

The selection of John from the New South Wales Cup is a throwback to the mid-1980s when cult figure Olsen Filipaina was plucked from Balmain reserve grade to inspire his nation to victory (although it must be said Filipaina was a past great) while Willie Talau enjoyed the same ascension when chosen by then Kiwi coach Daniel Anderson in 2003.

The Kangaroos weren't without their own selection headaches with a shoulder injury ruling out Jarryd Hayne while Boyd Cordner and Nate Myles were preferred over Josh Papalii and Andrew Fifita. But while Sheens was able to cure his ills with a nice cup of tea and a lie down, Kearney was forced to wrestle with a Sonny Bill Williams-sized migraine before settling on his squad.

Footy's a funny game but it will take the greatest upset in 30 years of international rugby league for the Kiwis to topple their paper giants.

With a host of great ticket options and free entry for junior pass holders, there's no reason not to be there. Those wishing to use a junior pass for entry into the Test need to redeem a ticket at one of the box offices which will secure a spot in a Category 3 seating section.
 

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