The Old Trafford redemption: Australia hope to avenge 2008 defeat against Kiwis in Rugby League World Cup final

By Alan Ross

The Rugby League World Cup reaches its conclusion this weekend with the final between Australia and New Zealand at Old Trafford on Saturday afternoon.

Sonny Bill Williams, who was named international player of the year on Wednesday, and his Kiwi teammates will be attempting to repeat their 2008 victory when they defeated Australia 34-20.

New Zealand’s vice-captain Kieran Foran sees the Queensland quad of Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk, Billy Slater and Cameron Smith as the Kangaroos main threat.

“Their spine is the best in the world and has been for many years. They’ll probably finish their careers as greats if not immortals,” he told BBC Sport.

Australia impressed in their semi final with a resounding 64-0 defeat of Fiji while the Kiwis relied on a last-gasp comeback against England to secure their place in the final.

New Zealand assistant coach Ivan Cleary has demanded that his side improve upon the performance against the hosts or else they will be on the wrong end of the results.

“The Aussies have got great players in every position. They’re as formidable as any opponent you’re going to face, so if we don’t perform to our best, we’ve next to no chance,” he said.

The Kangaroos have been bolstered by the news that fullback Slater has been named in the Australian squad after missing out on the semi due to aggravating a knee injury and Australian test legend Andrew Johns is tipping his compatriots for success.

“The Australian team is full of superstars though, and the Kiwis must control the likes of Cronk and Thurston to be successful,” he told the Rugby League World Cup site.

“And in that respect, New Zealand’s strength could also be their weakness, as some of the bigger blokes in the pack could be susceptible in defence.

“It’s a tough one to predict, but if I had to pick somebody then I’d go for an Australian win.”

Image courtesy of Rugby League World Cup 2013 via YouTube, with thanks.

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