18 Nov 2016

Kiwis' Four Nations title, no.1 ranking on the line

6:48 pm on 18 November 2016

The Kiwis will put their Four Nations rugby league title and number one ranking on the line on Monday morning, when they play a world-class Australian side in the tournament final in Liverpool.

Jesse Bromwich and Cameron Smith

Jesse Bromwich and Cameron Smith Photo: Photosport

The New Zealanders have scraped into the decider despite three disappointing performances at the tournament, including an 18-18 draw with ninth-ranked Scotland last weekend.

That result sent Scotland into the history books -- they became the first second-tier team to ever win a competition point at the Four Nations.

The match was also history-making for New Zealand.

It was the first time one of the top three nations had failed to beat a tier two country at a major tournament since 1975.

Kiwis left dejected after Four Nations draw with Scotland

Kiwis left dejected after Four Nations draw with Scotland Photo: Photosport

Despite that dismal performance, the Kiwis are through to the final thanks to 17-16 win over hosts England in their opening game.

Kiwis utility Lewis Brown said they realise they're fortunate to have the chance to defend the Four Nations title.

"It's probably a wake-up call to be honest, maybe a blessing in disguise," Brown said.

Lewis Brown during the 2016 ANZAC Test against Australia

Lewis Brown in action for the Kiwis Photo: Photosport

"We probably haven't put a full 80 minutes of football...we've got a lot of calibre in the side and we haven't put it all together yet.

"We're just stripping it right back, getting a lot of clarity within our roles within the side."

The Kangaroos have been the only team to fire at the Four Nations, and whether they like it or not, they're heading into the game as firm favourites.

But Australian captain Cameron Smith said they would be foolish to underestimate the Kiwis.

"I recall that was the same outlook from media and public in 2008 at the World Cup in Australia and it was the same outlook in 2010 in the Four Nations," Smith said.

Kangaroos captain Cameron Smith.

Kangaroos captain Cameron Smith. Photo: Photosport

"I played in both of those matches where everyone thought Australia were going to turn up and win, and we didn't.

"They're ranked number one in the world at the moment and coming off that match at the weekend, I think they'll be particularly desperate to show eveyone what they're capable of doing."

Kiwis coach David Kidwell is adamant his team can win.

"We're at the final dance now and we've worked hard to be here. We've been away from our families for five or six weeks now," Kidwell said.

Kiwis coach David Kidwell.

Kiwis coach David Kidwell. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

"This group's been committed from the start and we get an opportunity on Sunday (Monday NZT) to make our families proud."

New Zealand have lost their past three games against the Kangaroos and their Four Nations performances have been lacklustre at best.

But Lewis Brown has promised the flair and unpredictability which they have been lacking will return.

"I probably believe our energy's been a bit down, but it's about stripping it right back and just playing the brand of footy that we like -- that's the ad-lib, off-load and stuff like that.

"It's been there the last three weeks, but we just probably haven't executed it that well."

Kiwis will attempt to bring their flair and unpredictability back into their game for the Four Nations final

Kiwis will attempt to bring their flair and unpredictability back into their game for the Four Nations final Photo: Photosport

The match is being played at Liverpool's famous football ground Anfield.

But the field will just 91 metres long, nine metres short of the regulation size, after both teams raised concerns about how close the dead ball line was to the fencing.

The shorter pitch will ensure there is a five metre in-goal area and a three metre gap before the fence.

The match kick's off at 3.00am Monday.