WELL PREPARED: Ben Matulino and Simon Mannering at the Captain’s Run yesterday.
WELL PREPARED: Ben Matulino and Simon Mannering at the Captain’s Run yesterday. GETTY IMAGES

Winning not ranking important for Kiwis

NEW Zealand coach Stephen Kearney and captain Simon Mannering have bizarrely played down the prestige of being ranked the world's number one rugby league nation in a country which worships its world champion All Blacks.

"That (being ranked No.1) does not come into the equation," said the Kiwis coach, who played 43 games for New Zealand and will coach his 39th game in tonight's Anzac Test in Brisbane.

"We're not playing to be recognised as number one, that doesn't enter our psyche.

"Our energy and focus is on putting in a good performance, the world ranking is not an issue for us."

Mannering, who will take his Test tally to 41, said what was important to him and his teammates was bringing success to the New Zealand jumper.

"If we (New Zealand) play well and the Warriors play well it lifts the profile of rugby league in New Zealand," he said.

A win tonight, in what are expected to be wet and windy conditions at Suncorp Stadium, would put the Kiwis on track to usurp the Kangaroos in the international rankings by the end of the year.

Bookmakers Sportsbet has New Zealand the $3.15 underdogs, surprisingly generous odds considering it has won the past two clashes between the teams.

The pressure is squarely on the Kangaroos and their coach Tim Sheens, whose chances of coaching Australia through to the 2017 World Cup could hinge on tonight's outcome.

Australia will not play another test this year, but Sheens, who has lost his last two internationals, declined to speculate on his future.

"I'm not feeling any more pressure than normal," said Sheens, who will rely heavily on senior players such as skipper Cameron Smith, halfback Cooper Cronk and five-eighth Johnathan Thurston to lead the way with the four rookies in his squad.

"Football is a pressure game when you are representing Australia," Sheens added.

"We're playing a very, very good side, a champion side, so there's always pressure.

"It's how you handle it."

A lot of the focus has been on the need for Australia to begin planning for the future, with a handful of players, including Smith, Thurston, Cronk and Corey Parker moving into their 30s.

"I think the day is coming when a few of our older boys will start leaving," said Smith, who will run out for his 43rd Test and join a select group who have led their country 20 or more times.

"Unfortunately we can't go on forever, but look at JT (Thurston) he is playing the best football at the age of 33, and many rate him the best player in the world.

"If you're playing good football and you are picked for representative teams you deserve to be there."


KANGAROOS: Greg Inglis, Alex Johnston, Michael Jennings, Will Chambers, Josh Dugan, Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk, Matt Scott, Cameron Smith (c) Aaron Woods, Greg Bird, Sam Thaiday, Corey Parker. Inter: Luke Lewis, Trent Merrin, Nate Myles, James Tamou.

KIWIS: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Jason Nightingale, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Peta Hiku, Manu Vatuvei, Kieran Foran, Shaun Johnson, Jesse Bromwich, Issac Luke, Ben Matulino, Tohu Harris, Kevin Proctor, Simon Mannering (c). Inter: Thomas Leuluai, Martin Taupau, Sam Moa, Greg Eastwood.