Kiwis counting on Paul to release the talent

Click to follow
One of these days, New Zealand are going to click. Australia have to go into the second semi-final at Huddersfield assuming that tomorrow will be that day, writes Dave Hadfield

There is little to suggest that the Kiwis can suddenly turn it on. They have played seven internationals under the coaching of Frank Endacott this year, without adding up to the sum of their parts. Another reshuffle of their resources makes them look potentially more dangerous than ever.

A centre partnership of Kevin Iro and Richie Blackmore, for instance, is the most threatening in the world. They have everything - size, speed, excellent hands - but the chances of them both hitting form are the equivalent to somebody winning the lottery twice.

Much will depend on how Henry Paul tailors his game to playing acting half and how John Lomax, restored to the front row, fares when he tries to slip the ball out of the tackle. The ability is there to destroy any opposition - but, then again, it always was.

The Australian coach, Bob Fulton, does not like making unnecessary changes, but circumstances have forced several. John Hopoate effectively wrote himself out of the script at Wembley and his replacement, Brett Dallas, is a more elusive winger.

In the pack, room simply had to be found for Gary Larson, whose hyperactivity throughout the Australia representative season marks him out as a freak even by their standards. The most significant change, however, is the inclusion of a half-back, Andrew Johns, at hooker. Wayne Bartrim was disappointing there at Wembley, but there is another hooker in the squad in Aaron Raper, so Johns' selection marks a drastic change of tack.

The objective is to get another play-maker on to the field to take some of the weight off Brad Fittler. Provided the ploy does not backfire by inducing over-elaboration around the rucks and provided - as always - that the Kiwis do not suddenly find themselves, Australia should book a return trip to Wembley.

AUSTRALIA: Brasher (Sydney Tigers); Dallas (Sydney Bulldogs), Hill (Manly), Coyne (St George), Wishart (Illawarra); Fittler (Penrith, capt), Toovey (Manly); Pay (Sydney Bulldogs), A Johns (Newcastle), Carroll (Manly), Menzies (Manly), Larson (North Sydney), Dymock (Sydney Bulldogs). Substitutes (from): Gillespie (Manly), O'Davis (Newcastle), Smith (Sydney Bulldogs), M Johns (Newcastle), Kosef (Manly).

NEW ZEALAND: Ridge (Manly, capt); Hoppe (Auckland), Blackmore (Auckland), K Iro (Leeds), Barnett (Cronulla); Kemp (Leeds), Jones (Auckland); Lomax (Canberra), Paul (Wigan), Lowrie (Sydney City), Kearney (Auckland), Pongia (Canberra), Horo (Sydney Wests). Substitutes: Ngamu (Auckland), Okesene (Auckland), Wiki (Canberra), T Iro (Sydney City).

Referee: R Smith (England).