Johnathan Thurston ready for N Zealand at­ten­tion

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

LONDON:

Johnathan Thurston re­turns to Aus­tralia action in the Four Na­tions to­day expecting to be in the sights of New Zealand. The Kan­ga­roos star was one of a se­lect group of play­ers rested by coach Mal Meninga for a com­fort­able 54-12 win over out­siders Scot­land in Aus­tralia’s tour­na­ment opener last week­end. “I didn’t need the rest but he de­cided not to play a few of the boys and I was one of them,” said Thurston, who re­ceived sev­eral du­bi­ous hits dur­ing Aus­tralia’s 26-6 vic­tory in Perth in Oc­to­ber. Meninga was es­pe­cially an­gry at a late tackle by Jared Waerea-Har­g­reaves in that match.

The Syd­ney Roost­ers prop is now set to miss Satur­day’s match in the English Mid­lands city of Coven­try through in­jury, but Thurston is braced for an­other phys­i­cal en­counter.

“I’m expecting it to be nice and tough,” he said. “We played them before we came over here and they got hold of me a cou­ple of times and no doubt it won’t be any dif­fer­ent.

“I might have to try and give them one back but I don’t think I’m big enough.” New Zealand as­sis­tant coach Wil­lie Poching said his side had to deny Thurston time and space if they were to avoid a third loss to Aus­tralia in 2016. “We’ve got to be good de­fen­sively,” Poching said. “He showed some of his qual­ity in Perth, so we’ve got to be on our guard for ev­ery­thing that he throws at us.”

Poching added that the Ki­wis, who last week beat Eng­land 17-16, had im­proved since their last clash with the Kan­ga­roos. “We’ve grown since the Test in Perth,” he said. “We know a bit more about our­selves. We’ve had a re­ally good train­ing week, now it’s about con­tin­u­ally growing and be­ing bet­ter than we were last week.” And Thurston warned Aus­tralia would have their work cut out in try­ing to re­gain the world num­ber one rank­ing and the Four Na­tions ti­tle off their tran­sTas­man ri­vals.

“The Ki­wis are al­ways strong in these types of tour­na­ment and the more games they play to­gether the bet­ter they get,” he said. “Peo­ple may for­get that they’re the hold­ers but I haven’t for­got. They’re also the num­ber one ranked team in world rugby league and that’s a ti­tle that we’d like to get back.” —AFP

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