New Zealand might have underwhelmed through the World Cup but in star fullback Joseph Manu they have a player who can win a game on his own, even against a team like Australia.
- New Zealand fullback Joseph Manu has been the form player of the World Cup
- His head-to-head battle with Australia’s James Tedesco will go a long way to deciding Saturday morning’s (AEST) semi-final at Elland Road
- Manu has won two man-of-the-match awards and is a contender for player of the tournament
Manu is putting together a compelling case for player of the tournament honours after man-of-the-match displays in the Kiwis’ opening match against Lebanon and their quarter-final victory over Fiji.
The 26-year-old’s showing against the Bati was particularly impressive. With New Zealand floundering after a Fijian ambush, Manu put the team on his back and helped salvage a 24-18 victory to set up a bumper semi-final clash with the Kangaroos.
Stopping the tournament favourites shapes as a tall order even for someone of Manu’s quality but another blinder from the Roosters flyer shapes as New Zealand’s best chance of taking down Australia.
“He’s a big body and has great footwork and strength, up against tired forwards in the middle, it makes him hard to stop,” Australian fullback James Tedesco said.
“He goes all day as well, got a great motor on him. We don’t see it at training when we do fitness but he brings it out during the games.
“Against Lebanon, he tore them apart and gave them so many quick rucks. He plays off the back of the forwards, they set the platform and he just goes, that’s what we need to stop.”
The head-to-head battle between Manu and Tedesco shapes as the key conflict at Elland Road on Saturday morning (AEST).
So long as Tedesco — who still makes a fair case to be the best player in the world — is around, Manu cannot play fullback at club level.
But the influence of the Australian on his Roosters teammate is clear – Tedesco’s high involvement is a trademark of his play, something Manu has emulated in the black and white jersey.
Against Fiji, Manu ran for a scarcely believable 348 metres and scored the try that levelled the scores before New Zealand’s late winner.
Attacking through the middle third with Manu, hooker Brandon Smith and halfback Jahrome Hughes shape as New Zealand’s best path to victory as they chase their second World Cup triumph.
While Tedesco conceded there was no way to fully keep Manu out of the match, shutting down New Zealand’s brutal forward pack will go a long way to limiting his influence.
“They have a great forward pack, which will be a job for us to stop. Our [defence] has been really good and we’ll keep building on that but this will be a different level, coming up against a world-class forward pack,” Tedesco said.
“Completions and discipline are huge. We can’t make too many errors in these next two games, field position has been the difference in a lot of the games.
“If teams are patient, completing, working to the corners, it wears teams down. That’s what we’re looking for and we’ve got the best guys for that in Nathan [Cleary] and Munny [Cameron Munster].
“That’ll be key for us, those guys taking control.”
The return of prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard and hooker Ben Hunt means the Australians will be at full strength for the first time in the tournament as they look to win a third-consecutive World Cup title.
What time is the Australia v New Zealand World Cup semi-final?
The game starts at 6:45am AEDT, which means 5:45am in Queensland, 5:15am in the Northern Territory, 6:15am in South Australia, 3:45am in Western Australia, and 9:45am in New Zealand.
You can join ABC Sport and Jon Healy for a live blog of the match at abc.net.au/sport, and watch the game of Fox Sports and Kayo.
ABC Sport reporter Nick Campton will report all the latest news and fallout from the ground after the match.
Leave a Reply