Australians fear Johnson may be new 'magic man'
Australia fear Shaun Johnson could take up the role of "magic man" left vacant by the injury to superstar Benji Marshall when they take on New Zealand in tomorrow night's Anzac test in Canberra.
Injury has robbed the Kiwis of their two most dynamic and creative forces in Marshall (toe) and dual international Sonny Bill Williams (knee), and while the Kangaroos expect plenty of work up the middle, they don't believe it will be all rough and tumble from the visitors.
Johnson will team with Kieran Foran in the New Zealand halves for the first time, with Australian coach Tim Sheens pinpointing the unpredictability of 22-year-old Johnson - playing just his second Test - as a major danger for his side.
''Shaun takes up the Marshall-type game and we've played Kieran before and we know what to expect,'' Sheens said at today's press conference at the Australian War Memorial.
''We've got to pay attention to both halves to be honest. Shaun's reminded us a few times of that ability that he has - as has Benji - to grab you with something.
''That speed he's got, the show of the ball, the kick and chase.''
While Johnson's ability to conjure something out of nothing, Kiwi coach Stephen Kearney said the match could be the making of his scrumbase partner.
''I'm really excited about seeing Kieran and Shaun together,'' Kearney said.
''Kieran's come into the camp and while obviously it's disappointing not to have Benji there, I think it's given Kieran an opportunity to assume a bit more responsibility in the running of the group.''
The Kangaroos go into the test as red-hot $1.14 favourites, with the Kiwis' only win over Australia in the mid-season clash coming when the concept was first created in 1998. But Kearney dismissed suggestions his side was that far off the mark.
''We've got closer with our performances the last three Anzac tests,'' Kearney said.
''Eighty per cent of the group have been here for the last four years and we've got some really good talent coming through.
''We believe we give ourselves a real opportunity tomorrow night.''