Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney has warned his players about the dangers of letting the occasion get to them when they meet Australia in the World Cup final at Manchester's Old Trafford on Sunday morning.
The Kiwis coach believes some of his players were too pumped up for last weekend's 20-18 semifinal win against England and that led to unnecessary mistakes.
Kearney admits that to beat the Kangaroos this weekend, not only do the Kiwis need to play their best footy of this tournament, they also need to keep a lid on their emotions.
"We've spoken about that this week," Kearney told Fairfax Media. "It's about being effective, composed and being precise with our actions. "Last week we were the opposite, apart from a period in the second half where we were precise and controlled.
"We scored a try in that period and we had four penalties and had all the momentum in the game, then after an error we saw the ball scarcely for 15 sets.
"It is a World Cup final. I dare say there is going to be some emotion, there's going to be some feeling out there, but for us it's about controlling that and using it in the right areas."
Kearney doesn't believe the Kiwis have played to their potential at any time during this World Cup, and at times they've been guilty of letting the opposition get the upper hand.
"Last week at stages of that match we were our own worst enemy," he said.
"With the opposition last week they very nearly made us pay dearly for that.
"The lads understand that you can't repeat that again this week because I know Australia will make us pay for it.
"I'm predicting that it has to take our best performance and that's what we're striving for all tournament, to get to this position."
When Kearney took the Kiwis into the 2008 World Cup with Australian supremo Wayne Bennett as his assistant, he had barely cut his teeth as a league coach. Five years on, he's had his ups and downs, including a tough time at the Eels which ended in him having to move on.
As an NRL coach he's yet to establish himself but at the international level he stands on the verge of being the first coach ever to win back-to-back World Cups.
Asked to compare this side to the one that triumphed five years ago in Brisbane, Kearney didn't really give an answer and he rarely does to questions like that. But he did give an insight as to what this campaign has been like.
"It is different because they are a different bunch of guys," he said.
"We've been away for close to seven weeks and that's been a real challenge, keeping the guys up and focused on the job.
"But I've made them aware that we don't want to walk away from here after seven weeks of work with nothing in our hands.
"If we take our best performance to the game on Saturday [Sunday] then we give ourselves a great opportunity.
"In terms of the difference, it's hard to say. They are totally different scenarios, we've given ourselves a chance in the final.
"If we get it right on Saturday we know we've got a game that can put some pressure on Australia, but we've got to be able to withstand the pressure they throw at us to be able to mount that challenge."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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