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Triple header of international rugby league for Wollongong

Wollongong's WIN Stadium will host an international triple header on Friday with the green and gold sides facing the might of New Zealand and France.

The action kicks off with the Junior Kangaroos, now playing as the official Australia A side, up against France at 3.10pm before the Jillaroos take on the Kiwi Ferns at 5.40pm and the Kangaroos tackling the Kiwis at 8.10pm.

Here's all you need to know for all three games.

Australia v France

Even though this squad is just the Junior Kangaroos, some of Australia's stacked line-up wouldn't look out of place in the Test team.

The Junior Kangaroos age limit was increased from under 20s to 23s this year to establish a clearer pathway to Test selection, with coach Neil Henry dubbing his troops "a genuine Australia A side".

France had a hit-out at the World Cup 9s last weekend, winning one of four matches.

The Rundown

Junior Kangaroos: Newcastle scrapped Kalyn Ponga's five-eighth experiment early in the season but he'll get another shot in the No.6 jersey here. The electric Ryan Papenhuyzen will play fullback instead. David Fifita has been named captain, with Brodie Croft as his deputy.

France: Captain Jason Baitieri sensationally quit the team on Monday, citing a "lack of professionalism" from the higher-ups in the national system. Wigan prop Romain Navarrete has been named the new skipper of a team light on for Super League experience.

Key players

The 19-year-old Fifita's appointment as skipper could be the clearest sign yet that he's on the cusp of Test selection.

The young Bronco was outstanding for Australia in the World Cup 9s - and Meninga confirmed he would come under consideration to play Tonga next weekend.

Elsewhere, NSW Origin forward Angus Crichton will be hard to contain in the second row, back-to-back premiership winner Victor Radley should bring his usual toughness and skill at lock, while Ponga, Papenhuyzen and AJ Brimson loom as game-breakers.

For the Kangaroos to win

The backs might receive the spoils on the scoreboard, but Australia's fearsome forward pack hold the keys here. If the big men can get the rucks rolling, the speedsters will cause serious headaches.

Stat attack

Between them, the Junior Kangaroos' top 17 have 616 NRL games. Crichton leads the pack with 81, while Melbourne back-rower Tino Fa'asuamaleaui has the least experience on five first-grade appearances.

And another thing...

Radley, Fa'asuamaleaui, Zac Lomax, Emre Guler, Thomas Flegler and Gehamat Shibasaki played in last year's Junior Kangaroos (under-20s) team that beat New Zealand 40-24 at Mt Smart Stadium.

Australia v New Zealand women's Test

The Kiwi Ferns' upset win over the Jillaroos in the World Cup 9s final sets up an intriguing rematch in the longer form of the game at WIN Stadium on Friday night.

A total of 29 players set to play in the Test (14 for Australia, 15 for New Zealand) took part in the Nines less than a week ago with no love lost between the two nations following reports not a lot of hand-shaking took place after the final.

Kiwi Ferns centre Jules Newman delivered the first barb with a couple of heated exchanges towards Jillaroos players in the final and later labelled the Australians as cocky.

The Jillaroos haven't lost a Test match against the Kiwi Ferns since 2016 but were left chasing a win in the corresponding game last year with a late try through Australian centre Isabelle Kelly stealing a see-sawing 26-24 contest in Auckland.

Another close encounter is on the cards with the Kiwi Ferns closing the gap created by the Australians in recent years. 

The Rundown

Team News

Jillaroos: Simaima Taufa is in doubt with an ankle injury picked up in the NRLW. Caitlan Johnston, Julia Robinson and Tiana Penitani joined the squad as cover this week.

Kiwi Ferns: Lavinia Gould withdrew from the squad due to personal reasons with Kanyon Paul called in as a replacement. Dragons forward Maitua Feterika also joined the squad as cover for Aieshaleigh Smalley, who has an ankle concern.

Key match-up

Dally M medallist Jess Sergis will have her hands full marking Honey Hireme-Smiler, one of the best players in the world, despite a breakout season of her own to claim best player honours in the recent NRLW competition. Hireme-Smiler missed the NRLW season due to her mother's passing and the time spent away ensures the Kiwi Ferns superstar has fresh legs for an 80-minute game.

For the Jillaroos to win

They'll need to find enough muscle in the middle to match the Kiwi Ferns forward pack. The international retirement of Heather Ballinger and omissions of experienced forwards Elianna Walton and Stephanie Hancock leave a void in the engine room. There will be a heavy reliance on emerging forwards Millie Boyle and Chelsea Lenarduzzi to fill the void.

Jillaroos call up a shock for Penitani

For the Kiwi Ferns to win

They need to stay aggressive. Their performance in the Nines final – albeit a shortened format – was a style that seemed to rattle the Jillaroos. Their forward pack is the strongest it's been for some time and the balance in the halves with ball-playing forward Georgia Hale at lock gives them options they haven't had in recent times.

Stat attack

The Jillaroos had nine extra carries out of dummy half for an additional 173 metres in an otherwise evenly-poised corresponding game last year. This area of the field will be crucial given there is no Brittany Breayley for the Australians this time around, while the Kiwi Ferns have Krystal Rota and Nita Maynard rotating around the ruck.

I'll bring you back a trophy': Hireme dedicates win to late mother

And another thing...

Only 10 players remain from each nation since last year's corresponding Test match in October, indicating a changing of the guard continues for both sides. Fatigue is expected to be a factor late with temperatures in the mid-30s predicted during the day in Wollongong.

Australia v New Zealand men's Test

It has been more than a year since these trans-Tasman rivals met but Australia's 26-24 loss in Auckland in 2018 is still very much in the forefront of their minds - just ask Damien Cook.

It was his maiden appearance in the famous green-and-gold jersey, so there's an itch he wants to scratch against the Kiwis on Friday night in Wollongong.

In the past two seasons the scorecard reads a win each. And in the last five Tests against all oppositions, Australia have a 4-1 record with New Zealand enjoying a 3-2 win-loss record. 

So in other words, this is another close confrontation between two well-coached, highly talented teams.

Only a conversion separated them before, so Latrell Mitchell's kicking boot could come to the fore this time around, after it was Valentine Holmes doing the kicking a year ago. 

Kiwis coach Michael Maguire is on a roll in his new position. He's going for a hat-trick of Test victories after snaring the final match in the series against England (34-0) last November,  then the mid-season Pacific Test against Tonga (34-14) in June.  

The Rundown

Team News

Kangaroos: Josh Papalii (rib) has been cleared after passing his fitness test at training on Thursday. Rabbitohs forward Cameron Murray will be Australia's 18th man. 

Kiwis: Roosters lock Isaac Lui (knee) is out with Adam Blair coming into the starting side at lock.

Key match-up

The two No.6s going at it should be worth the price of admission alone. Shaun Johnson was everywhere for NZ at the World Cup 9s, scoring two tries and setting up most of the others the Kiwis scored in five games last weelend. Cameron Munster has not played since the Storm bowed out of the NRL preliminary finals. In fact his last Test appearance was scoring two tries as a centre against Lebanon on the 2017 World Cup. But both men play a care-free brand of football that is highly entertaining and usually brings results on the score board.

For the Kangaroos to win

If Munster playing alongside Daly Cherry-Evans in Test colours for the first time is similar to the way the pair have linked for Queensland, then things are looking rosy for Australia. The energetic Josh Addo-Carr on the left wing should present problems for the Kiwis, and Munster knows his clubmate's skills very well. The Storm flyer is on debut but scored two tries for NSW in this year's Origin series and 16 tries in 23 games for Melbourne in 2019. 

For the Kiwis to win

Johnson scored a hat-trick against Tonga in June, which made up 50% of the tries scored that day. The Roosters grand final trio of Joey Manu, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, and Zane Tetevano (18th man) will be keen to continue celebration mode by keeping up their winning ways against the Aussies. They will be fresh legs for the Kiwis squad, the majority of whom played in the Nines. Their input could be just the battery-source the Kiwis can rely on to get them home.

Stat attack

It's Test match number 'Sweet 16' for Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga. He's after his 15th win at the helm, after only losing six games as a player in the 46 times he  ran out onto the field for Australia. 

And another thing...

It has been known for a few days now that this Test will be Marshall's record 20th appearance as captain of New Zealand, and his first since 2012. The proud Kiwi made his debut 15 years ago, so it's been quite a ride for the 34-year-old. 

Be there live at WIN Stadium for the Test Match Double Header. Visit nrl.com/tickets to purchase tickets.