New Zealand player Shaun Johnson gets into space against the Kangaroos.
New Zealand player Shaun Johnson gets into space against the Kangaroos. DAVE HUNT

Kiwis won't relinquish No.1 ranking without a fight

RUGBY LEAGUE: New Zealand insists there has been no psychological damage inflicted by the last two emphatic defeats to Australia, ahead of the Four Nations clash in Coventry on Sunday (6am AEST).

The Kiwis are still ranked as the No.1 nation in world league, thanks to their golden spell in 2014-15, when they beat Australia twice in the course of winning the Four Nations, then destroyed the Kangaroos 26-12 in Brisbane in the 2015 Anzac Test.

But their crown has looked a little wobbly this year, after a 16-0 loss in Newcastle in May (where the scoreline didn't really reflect the one-sided nature of the contest) and a 26-6 defeat in Perth three weeks ago.

Australia has looked revitalised under Mal Meninga and the new coaching team, and the Kangaroos were the least affected by injury ahead of this Four Nations, with most of their big guns present in England.

There is something ominous about the progress of the Kangaroos since May, but the Kiwis have no doubts about their own place on the pedestal.

"(Australia) are a side we respect, they have got awesome players (and) they are a good team,” Johnson said. "But we think we are the best team in the world. That is where we want to be, that is where we want to stay.

"There is no point coming up here, coming all this way, if you already have yourself beaten in the mind. None of us think that.”

Johnson added that the precious ranking position was a source of great pride for the Kiwis, who worked so hard to achieve the lofty position, having never before been rated top since rankings began in 2007.

"We all want to be at the top, we all want to be the best,” Johnson said. "(We) are sitting No.1 in the world at the moment. They have beaten us a couple of times, we beat them a few times before that. We know they are going to play well this weekend, we have to be there to match them.”

Johnson's sentiments were echoed by Tohu Harris, who said that the Kiwis wanted to do themselves justice after sub-standard displays in the last two trans-Tasman encounters.

"I'm sure (Australia) has taken a lot of confidence from the last two wins but in saying that we know we didn't perform like we know we could,” Harris said. "We let ourselves down in both those performances. There is a lot of improvement in us and we have a big chance this weekend if we put it on the field.”

The Kiwis' last victory over Australia in England was the famous 24-0 win at Elland Road in the Tri Nations final in 2005. They achieved a 20-20 draw in London in 2009 but lost 26-12 in Warrington in 2011.


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