Kiwis out to claim Kangaroo's No.1 spot in rugby league
AUSTRALIA is in real danger of losing its ranking as the number one rugby league nation to New Zealand if it loses next Friday's trans-Tasman Test in Brisbane.
The Kangaroos lead the Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) rankings with 984 points, ahead of New Zealand on 884 and England which is a long way back in third place on 485.
The allocation of rankings points is both complicated and confusing, but there is a possibility that if the Kiwis topple Australia for the third straight time in six months they will move into the No.1 slot by the end of the year.
Australia has no more Tests scheduled in 2015 after the Anzac Test, while the Kiwis have international matches at the end of the year.
Points are allocated against a range of criteria, including the strength of the opposition, the winning margin, the importance of the game and the time of year the games are played..
New Zealand beat Australia 30-12 in it Four Nations pool game last October, and triumphed again in the final three weeks later.
The Kiwis have only ever beaten their trans-Tasman rivals in three consecutive times once in 107 years.
They beat Australia twice in 1908, the first year of the ARL premiership, but their most dominant stretch was between June 1952 and July 1953 when they lowered the Kangaroos colours four straight times.
While many of the regular Australian players missed the Four Nations with injury, if they are named as expected by selectors on Sunday they will make the team the oldest on record.
Johnathan Thurston, Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk are all 31, while forward leader Paul Gallen is 33.
They are all still among the best players in the NRL, but coach Tim Sheens no doubt has one eye on the next World Cup in 2017 when they will all be at the back end of their great careers.
With Slater (shoulder), Josh Morris (knee), Brett Morris (hamstring), Justin Hodges (hamstring) and Darius Boyd (Achilles) on the injured list, a handful of spots look to be up for grabs.
"I'm not going to pick anyone who is not in form," said Sheens when asked about his ageing roster.
He said the senior players were still performing well enough to keep their places, but admitted that may not always be the case with a succession plan needed.
"Players will often play until they drop," said Sheens.
"Sometimes you have to tell them it's time, but I think form tells you that."
- Last year's Anzac Test: Kangaroos 30 Kiwis 18
- Four Nations pool game: Kiwis 30 Kangaroos 12
- Four Nations final: Kiwis 22 Kangaroos 18