Anderson plans repeat full-frontal Kiwi assault

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The Independent Online

The first Tri-Nations tournament to be held in Britain is a guaranteed success, even before Australia and New Zealand resume hostilities in west London this evening.

The first Tri-Nations tournament to be held in Britain is a guaranteed success, even before Australia and New Zealand resume hostilities in west London this evening.

A late decision to play the game at Loftus Road, rather than in the north of England, has already paid off, with all but 1,000 of the 16,000 tickets sold and the Rugby League advising those with and without tickets to get there early.

"It's a decision that has been thoroughly vindicated," said a League spokesman, who added that a marketing effort aimed specifically at antipodeans living in the capital had proved highly effective.

The two countries' first match, in Auckland last Saturday, can only have helped. A 16-all draw, only the second in the history of trans-Tasman Tests, has whetted the appetite for this one. The Kiwi coach, Daniel Anderson, has warned Australia to expect the same sort of full-frontal assault that they encountered last week.

True, he is without the "bruise brothers" from Penrith, Tony Puletua and Joe Galuvao, who are at home having operations, but he is able to bring in North Queensland's formidable Paul Rauhihi, voted the best prop in the Australian competition this season.

Likewise in the outside backs, where he loses Matt Utai but is able to replace him - for one match before he too goes under the surgeon's knife - with Super League's leading try-scorer, Lesley Vainikolo.

How Great Britain's Brian Noble, due back tonight after training with his squad in Spain, would love to have options like that. Both he and Australia's Wayne Bennett would equally love to be able to call upon a young talent like the New Zealand loose-forward, Sonny Bill Williams. A British crowd - or that proportion of the attendance that will be British - will get its first look at the 19-year-old, who is rated as the best player of his age in the world.

Apart from an eight-minute spell during which they scored three tries, Australia were made to look ordinary in Auckland. They have put part of the blame for that on the Kiwis' plan of narrowing the North Harbour Stadium pitch; they will not be able to do that at Loftus Road.

Apart from bringing in the ultra-reliable Craig Fitzgibbon, Bennett has resisted the urge to make changes, although he will want to see more creativity in midfield if his side are to avoid being dragged into trench warfare. One area in which the Kiwis might have an edge is that Vainikolo and his Bradford team-mates, Robbie Paul and Logan Swann, are accustomed to British conditions.

Great Britain report a clean bill of health from La Manga, while the strata of players immediately below are on their way to Moscow, where England play Russia in their opening game of the European Nations Cup. Hull have five - Shaun Briscoe, Kirk Yeaman, Gareth Raynor, Richard Whiting and Ewan Dowes - in the starting line-up on the artificial turf of the Olympic Stadium.

The Workington full-back, Lusi Sione, has been drafted into the Anzac side to play Cumbria at his home ground on Wednesday. The game is to give Australia and New Zealand fringe players match practice, although Rauhihi has been named among the Kiwis.

The former New Zealand international Gary Mercer has been named the Oldham coach after being sacked by Castleford at the end of last season.

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