x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Australia are puzzled in preparations for Benji Marshall

Australia are wondering how to stop New Zealand's Benji Marshall, especially when he is not the only tough customer they will be facing in the Anzac Test.

Having seen Benji Marshall, centre, lead his Wests Tigers side in Australia’s National Rugby League, Australia national coach Tim Sheens says he still has no idea what Marshall will do and when.
Having seen Benji Marshall, centre, lead his Wests Tigers side in Australia’s National Rugby League, Australia national coach Tim Sheens says he still has no idea what Marshall will do and when.

Tim Sheens, the Australia coach, knows Benji Marshall better than most, but even he has no idea what the New Zealand half-back will produce in today's Anzac Test.

Sheens coaches Marshall at Wests Tigers in Australia's National Rugby League, but the Kiwi's unpredictability remains the biggest threat to the hosts' hopes of victory.

Marshall was instrumental in New Zealand's breathtaking win in last year's Four Nations final, but Sheens said negating his trickery is far easier said than done.

"I could tell them what size shorts he wears and things like that, but not even I know exactly what he's going to do at times - how do I coach against that?" Sheens said. "We prepare for our game and look at their strengths and Benji is one of them, but we're not focused on one player. It's not all about Benji.

"They're a very good side."

Marshall was quick to return the compliment and said the Australian line-up features some of the best players in rugby league.

"[Johnathan] Thurston is probably the form player of the competition, Locky [Darren Lockyer] is playing well for Brisbane and [Greg] Inglis is starting to find his feet at Souths," Marshall said.

"They're going to be hard to shut down all over the field and we know that we're not going to be able to shut down everything, but we can try and limit the effect they have on the game."

If they can do that, Stephen Kearney, the New Zealand coach, believes his side can win.

"We've been able to build some consistency in our selections in recent years," he said. "The side has become more settled, and we've also been able to develop a little more in terms of experience and our combinations."

New Zealand humbled Australia 34-20 at the 2008 World Cup and beat them 16-12 in November's Four Nations final but have yet to beat them away in 14 years of Anzac Tests.

The Kiwis' only success in the annual one-off clash came at Auckland's North Harbour Stadium in 1998, the only time it has been played in New Zealand.

Today's Test was switched to Gold Coast's Robina ground after the original venue in Christchurch, New Zealand, was damaged during February's earthquake.