Johnathan Thurston ready for N Zealand attention
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