Kangaroos better prepared for the final this time

LIAM FITZGIBBON
Last updated 08:39 26/11/2013

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At the 2008 Rugby League World Cup, a soft preparation was cited as a major factor behind Australia's shock loss to New Zealand in the final.

But despite enjoying a similarly easy ride against a string of minnows at this year's tournament, the Kangaroos are adamant they are better equipped for battle ahead of Saturday's showdown with the Kiwis at Old Trafford.

Leading into the final in Brisbane five years ago, then-Kangaroos coach Ricky Stuart spoke several times of his concerns about Australia's run, which included big wins over Papua New Guinea and Fiji.

Stuart's fears were realised when an out-of-sorts Australian side fell to the Kiwis 34-20.

The Kangaroos' run to this year's final has arguably been even easier and they've piled on 210 unanswered points in their past four matches; two big wins over Fiji and thrashings of Ireland and USA.

New Zealand, on the other hand, were pushed to the limit for the first time and needed a last-minute try to overcome England in Saturday's semi-final.

But despite the contrast in semi-final tests, Australia's players believe their imposing defensive record, and the fact they are finishing games strongly, are good signs for the final.

"I feel as though in 2008, when we played Fiji in that semi-final, even though we still belted them (52-0), I reckon we lost a bit of momentum heading into that final," veteran centre Brent Tate told AAP.

"I don't get that feeling this time.

"I've been really impressed with how professionally we've approached every game.

"Because in all those games, we sort of knew we were going to win if we played well and it's been a matter of not getting in the habit of throwing the ball around and getting away from your structures and what works for you."

Vice-captain Paul Gallen agreed Australia had done everything in their power to ensure they were ready for the final.

"At the end of the day, all you can do is play who they put in front of you and we've done that pretty well," Gallen said.

"We haven't take our foot off the gas."

Kangaroos halfback Cooper Cronk believes both sides' campaigns will effectively be irrelevant when they meet in front of an expected crowd of around 75,000.

"It doesn't really matter what's transpired in the weeks leading up to it," Cronk said.

"It just comes down to these next four days and the 80-minute performance."

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- AAP

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