Australia know it is coming but can they stop it?
New Zealand have made no secret of their intent to roll straight through the middle of the Australian ruck again in Saturday’s Four Nations final in Wellington on Saturday.
With big prop Jesse Bromwich leading the way, the tactic was a spectacular success in the 30-12 defeat of the Kangaroos in their tournament-opener three weeks ago.
Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens has beefed up his forward pack since, moving hard-hitting Josh Papalii to the front-row alongside Aaron Woods and adding prop David Klemmer to the bench.
One of Australia’s best last week, Papalii is confident the Kangaroos front-row, criticised by some as lacking muscle, found its mojo in the wins over England and Samoa.
“Me and Woodsy are both still young, I have moved to the position and I find it pretty cruisy with him there,” Papalii told AAP.
“It helps having a younger partner, there is a lot of enthusiasm there and it is coming together well.
“We have played some big packs during this tournament and New Zealand is certainly one of them.
“They have got a great middle and we know that and we will be ready.”
Woods, the only starting NRL front-rower in the NRL in the Kangaroos squad, bristled at suggestions the Kangaroos were light on up front.
“We have David Klemmer and Josh there too. It is not like we don’t have many front-rowers. It is just about knowing your role,” said Woods.
“A lot of people have questioned that we only have two front-rowers in this squad but we believe in what we are trying to do.
“It will be a different game to last time if we can hold the ball. We dropped a lot of ball in our own half and a quality side like the Kiwis, they are going to punish you.
“We need to have a lot more ball control and in our defence stick tight around the middle.”
Woods acknowledged the impact of big boppers Bromwich, Adam Blair and Jason Taumalolo, who have been crucial for the unbeaten Kiwis in the tournament.
“Bromwich, Blair and Taumalolo have all been going really well,” Woods said.
“They have some big boys there.
“(Wests Tigers teammate) Blair has been a good player all year. He does all the dirty work that goes unnoticed by a lot of people and he is starting to show what he can do at international level.
“He has been one of their leaders, him and Bromwich up front.”
FOUR NATIONS RECORDS OF FORWARD ENFORCERS AARON WOODS (AUSTRALIA) AND JESSE BROMWICH (NEW ZEALAND)
Australia v New Zealand
Woods: 13 hitups, 93m, 31 tackles, 1 missed tackle
Bromwich: 19 hitups, 123m, 19 tackles, 1 missed tackle
Woods: 18 hitups, 137m, 30 tackles, 2 missed tackles
Bromwich: 22 hitups, 129m, 35 tackles, 3 missed tackles
Woods: 13 hitups, 113m, 25 tackles, 3 missed tackles
Bromwich: 25 hitups, 179m, 29 tackles, 2 missed tackles
Woods: 15 hitups, 114m, 29 tackles, 2 missed tackles
Bromwich: 22 hitups, 144m, 28 tackles, 2 missed tackles