The Australian coach, Tim Sheens, has signalled the end of one of the great international careers by leaving Petero Civoniceva completely out of his plans for the Four Nations final tomorrow. There is not even a place on the bench for the 34-year-old with a record 44 caps in the front row – and that, according to Sheens, is the way the player wanted it.
Sheens was concerned about the Penrith prop's mobility against the type of game he expects the Kiwis to play in their second meeting in a week – quick play-the-balls and plenty of dummy-half runs from Thomas Leuluai and Isaac Luke. "With the style of game it was last week, he battled and he admitted it," the coach said. "He basically said to me that I couldn't pick him."
The other potential source of danger for Sheens is a player he coaches at club level with Wests Tigers, the Kiwis' captain, Benji Marshall. "Benji can always hurt you with his speed and deceptive footwork, but I thought we handled him pretty well for most of the game last week," he said.
That game, played in front of a partisan and volatile Kiwi crowd, saw Australia cope well with potential distractions and effectively win it in the first quarter.
Even on the home turf of Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium, Sheens is not expecting to do that this time, although he does say: "I smell a lot of confidence in this squad."
The Kiwis were hard on themselves after their failure at Eden Park, but that could be exactly what they need to concentrate minds this week. They showed in the World Cup final at the same venue two years ago that, on their day, they can beat the Aussies. They have, says Marshall, got rid of their "big brother, little brother" mentality and they go into this match as equals.