New Zealand's form in the World Cup has Australia worried ahead of their final on Saturday. The Australia second-rower Anthony Laffranchi is keeping an eye on his former teammate Benji Marshall, who is seemingly building towards something special as the New Zealanders prepare for a hit-and-run job. The Kiwi No 6 has improved with every outing and was instrumental in his side's 10-point semi-final win over England over the weekend.
Laffranchi played alongside Marshall in Wests Tigers' Premiership team of 2005 and knows better than most the dangers his close friend will present at the Suncorp Stadium. "They've had a couple of good runs and they are stating to gel and Benji's coming into his own," Laffranchi said after an Australian recovery session yesterday. "New Zealand did perform pretty well the other night and Benji performed well. He's getting that spark back. He's taking on the line a bit more and he's got that level of confidence back.
"He will look for a big game to lead the Kiwis around the park." New Zealand were beaten by the Australians early in the tournament but have since strung together three consecutive wins to get into the final. Despite the Kangaroos' dominance to date, the Kiwis believe they can ambush the red-hot favourites and snatch the title. "They will be a different team to the one we played in the opening match," Laffranchi said. "They are a physical bunch and they'll attack the flanks with Benji on the edges. They will throw a lot at us."
The Kangaroos coach Ricky Stuart will not announce his line-up until later in the week but, apart from injury, is tipped to go with the same 17 that convincingly beat Fiji in the semi-final. Despite playing a key role in Australia's run to the decider, Laffranchi is taking nothing for granted. "I hope I'm not one of them [to miss out]. You would be filthy but that comes with the territory of being a 24-man squad.
"There are going to be some disappointed guys not being in the final. We'll field a strong 17 and they will do the job." Meanwhile, the Australia full-back Billy Slater has been named player of the year at the inaugural Rugby League International Federation awards ceremony in Brisbane. * PA Sport