Kiwis embracing underdogs tag

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Kiwis embracing underdogs tag

Kiwi excitement machine Shaun Johnson says New Zealand’s so-called “team of nobodies” are plotting to spring one of the great trans-Tasman boilovers in Friday night’s rugby league Test against Australia.


Johnson, who carved up England to score the try of the World Cup last November, says belief can overcome the Kiwis’ inexperience and criticism of Stephen Kearney’s rank underdogs has galvanised them in their improbable bid to topple the all-conquering Kangaroos.

Australia, with an average age of 28, boasts a total of 296 Tests in experience – more than double the 137 caps for New Zealand’s raw squad (average age 24) which contains six uncapped players.

“Look, we don’t care who we’re playing. We’re just so pumped to be in the position we’re in. Especially being an Anzac Test match, that makes it even more special,” Johnson told AAP.

Criticism of the Kiwis squad has focussed on the non-selection of the likes of Sonny Bill Williams and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves while play-making star Kieran Foran heads a long injured list.

“It doesn’t matter if we haven’t got the biggest names,” said Johnson.

“Being in camp with all the brothers is always a privilege and a massive honour to have a chance to represent your country.

“So we’re not really listening to what outside people are saying. We believe in the talent that we’ve got in our camp.

“No one’s been given a jersey. They’ve all been earnt and that’s what we’re riding off.”

The livewire No.7 knows Kiwis grow an extra leg when facing Australia in any sport.

“Every time we take the field we believe we can win the game and that’s going to be no different this Friday,” he said.

“They’re the best team in the world and we’re excited by the challenge ahead and can’t wait to get out there.”

Johnson said doubters only needed to look at Peta Hiku’s four tries for Manly on Sunday as a reason why bigger names like Sydney Roosters grand final hero Shaun Kenny-Dowall weren’t selected.

“There’s a few players in our side who have been playing really well and that’s probably why you haven’t seen some of the bigger names because these players are in their spot,” he said.

“Form is all they can pick the team on. Obviously there’s always going to be players disappointed with missing out on camp. I know if it was me, I’d be disappointed.

“You always want to be in this hotel at this time of the year, in amongst this group of players so we’ve just got to do those boys who missed out justice by putting in a performance that warrants winning and does our country proud.”

The Kangaroos are raging hot $1.14 fancies to repeat their 34-2 World Cup final drubbing, but Kiwi Adam Blair pointed out that NRL favourites are getting beaten every weekend.

“Everyone’s played NRL and if you’ve played in the NRL, you deserve to be there. We’re all human,” Blair said.

“We’ve had the same thing at the Tigers this year. Nobody has given us a chance.

“But if the belief’s right in the camp, anything can happen.”