Kiwis to draw on spirit of 2018 against Kangaroos in semi-final

NZ will aim to win just its third World Cup match against trans-Tasman rivals Australia in Leeds.

NZ will aim to win just its third World Cup match against trans-Tasman rivals Australia in Leeds. Photo: AAP

New Zealand will look to draw on the spirit of 2018 when it takes on holders and favourites Australia in the first World Cup semi-final at Elland Road.

Four years ago, the Kiwis were still reeling from a disastrous 2017 World Cup campaign but upset the odds with a 26-24 victory in Auckland to halt the Kangaroos’ 13-game winning run and hand Mal Meninga his first defeat as coach.

It was Michael Maguire’s second match in charge of New Zealand, having succeeded David Kidwell, and he is confident history can repeat itself.

“I believe I’ve got a very strong team,” he said.

“They’re the title holders, they’ve got that status at the moment, but we know what we have to do to achieve what we want to.”

Friday night’s game in Leeds is the first World Cup meeting of the rivals since Australia triumphed 34-2 in the 2013 final at Old Trafford.

While the Kangaroos have moved effortlessly through to the last four, the progress of the Kiwis, who have won just two of 19 previous World Cup meetings, has been less serene and they were given a scare by Fiji in the quarter-finals but Maguire insists that 24-18 victory will stand them in good stead.

“We learned a lot from that,” he said.

“It was actually a good game for us because it took us to a place we probably haven’t been to before.

“It was nice to see the players were able to come back and were able to show the resilience that we had spoken about.

“Down 12-0, the players had to regroup and recalibrate what we are about and I thought their composure throughout the game and the way they’ve grown especially over the time we’ve been together really shone.

“I do believe it’s going to be good for us but it’s up to us to utilise that moving forward.

“We’ve definitely got a lot more in us but I’ve seen passages of play where I’ve been really pleased. What better time to make sure we give it our best game, a semi-final against Australia?”

New Zealand are without veteran front rower Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, who served a one-match ban only to pick up a hamstring injury in training, but Premiership-winning prop Moses Leota is available.

Leota was set to play in the Kiwis’ opening match against Lebanon before picking up a groin injury in the team’s final training session and sustained a pectoral strain in the next game against Jamaica.

“Moses is a world class player,” Maguire said.

“You only have to look at what he did in the grand final. He’s a joy to coach and adds a lot to the Kiwis.”

Australia winger Josh Addo-Carr goes into the game needing one more try to equal the tournament record of 12 set by teammate Valentine Holmes in 2017.


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