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globalrugbyleague - Thu, 19 Apr 2007 10:41:00 GMT

The GRL Phantom has prepared a ``double treat'' for all the coaches by analyzing the two big games fans will be glued to their seats watching this weekend.

AUSTRALIA V NEW ZEALAND
Friday April 20
Suncorp Stadium, 7:30pm
Ref:

NEW ZEALAND.

Strengths:

Forget the tactical and technical side for the moment.

PASSION and EMOTION will rule first and foremost for the Kiwis. New Zealand rugby league has improved light years in recent games.

Firstly, because the New Zealand Warriors are in the NRL and secondly, the enormous amount of development and coaching for elite and talented players in the Shaky Isles.

The Kiwis overall have more depth and quality to select for their Test side. They are also very passionate and always start underdogs against the Australians.

Tactically, Brian McClennan, will use the emotion and big crowd on Australian soil to work as advantage rather than a hindrance.

The Kiwis will kick early in the tackle count to move around the big Australian team.

The Aussies boast size, not only in the forwards but also in the backs.

So in attack, watch for an early shift in the tackle count to try and get ``outside'' the defence, rather than cop the gang tackling coach Ricky Stuart will employ.

The Kiwis will play ``two passes wide of the ruck'' to avoid the early physical collisions as much as possible.

Weaknesses:

In Test matches because of their eagerness to impress, the Kiwis can burn nervous energy on occasions and get tired late in the first half and in the middle stages of the second forty.

Australia will use dummy-half runners a lot during these periods of the game.

AUSTRALIA.

Strengths:

Coach Ricky Stuart is a firm believer in all his teams being well prepared, physically, mentally and tactically.

He will use his athletic and talented backrow Andrew Ryan, Nathan Hindmarsh and Willie Mason, on the edges of the field, aiming attack at Benji Marshall.

However, Marshall could defend ``one player in from the wing'' to conserve his energy for attack.
The bench is well balanced with Luke Bailey, an outstanding player to come into the game while the halves have the edge for the Australia.

Darren Lockyer and Jonathan Thurston are the game's two best players and link well in attack and can produce add-lib footy on top of the team game plan which is hard to defend against.

Weaknesses:

Australia has been upset in the past (2005 Tri-Nations final against New Zealand in England); by being a tad complacent.

The Verdict:

Australia to win the Anzac Test by 10 points in a high scoring game.

CANTERBURY V PARRAMATTA
Sunday April 22nd
Parramatta Stadium, 3:00pm
Ref: Sean Hampstead.

The Eels have won three in a row and I give full credit to coach Michael Hagan, he didn't panic when his team played poorly the first two weeks.

The Bulldogs did enough to win against a tough Manly, and lost by two points.

Both teams have players backing up from Friday's Test. In recent years the Dogs have had the ``wood'' on the Eels and I believe they will continue this trend.

Parramatta doesn't handle a big forward pack too well ``playing direct'' all game.

By that I mean, a relentless, forward style game, with quick-play-the-balls and forward, after forward, hitting the ruck and play-the-ball area.

The Bulldogs will aim to use two or three forward plays then allow Kiwi halfback Ben Roberts, a player of definite ability, to skirt the edges of the field and aim passes for Willie Tonga, on the left-hand side of the field, Luke Patten through the centre backing up and Sonny Bill Williams on the right hand side down a short side.

Parramatta's forwards played well against Penrith and so did half Tim Smith.

Smith's more selective passing and kicking game was first rate against Penrith.

The Bulldogs forwards can be exploited late in each half of a game with dummy half runners and switches of attack.

Mark O'Meley can be found wanting when at marker and also he is slow to get off the ground after making tackles.

The Verdict:

I like the Dogs by seven in a big game in front of a packed Parramatta Stadium.
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