9 Nov 2022
Rapana looks for battle on the pitch not off it ahead of Aussie clash
Kangaroos skipper James Tedesco questioned Kiwis top world ranking
By James Toney
Kiwis winger Jordan Rapana is in no mood for a war of words for Australian captain James Tedesco ahead of their Rugby League World Cup showdown.
New Zealand arrived at the tournament as the world's top ranked side, something Tedesco questioned after the Kangaroos’s quarter-final win over Lebanon.
Australia are the reigning champions after beating England in Brisbane five years ago and have won 19 of the 22 Tests they have played since 2015.
However, they were far from flawless in their 48-4 win over the Cedars while the Kiwis needed to erase a 12-point deficit to narrowly beat Fiji.
"He’s entitled to his opinion," said Rapana, whose late try sealed the Kiwis final four place.
"If that’s what he wants to believe that, that’s fine, I’m all for it and good on him. He can have his opinion and we’ll find out on the weekend.
"People are always going to have their opinions and say what they want to say but the only opinions that matter are the squad of 24 that have come away with us and our coaching staff.
"We know we’ve got a big task up against Latrell [Mitchell] and [Josh] Addo-Carr this week. They’re quality players and when you’re coming up against a backline and a left edge like Australia have, the key is making sure our defence is on point.”
Some of Australian's team have been - somewhat tongue in cheek - suggesting their team are underdogs for the clash, despite leading the head-to-head in this fixture 101-33, with three draws, although it's a closer 6-4 scoreline in a last ten fixtures.
Tedesco though claimed the tale of the tape was irrelevant for his team's preparations for the hot-ticket at Elland Road.
"We see ourselves as the best so we're going to play like that," said the Kangaroos full-back.
"We have that expectation when you put an Australian jersey on that we are going to win. We have that confidence. I don't think the rankings really mean much to us and we want to win the World Cup."
Kiwis captain Jesse Bromwich admitted his team coped a spray from coach Michael Maguire after edging their quarter-final in Hull.
There were some home truths before the velocity was turned up at this week's training with Rapana claiming it was just what was needed.
"We identified the problems from the Fiji game and we’re looking good going up against the Kangaroos this week," he added.
"The thing that really stood out for me was it was well below our standards. We’re one of the best teams in the world and we can’t be dishing out performances like that. Credit to Fiji, they came to play and they matched out intensity. But if we want to be genuine contenders for this World Cup title, we can’t be playing the way we did against Fiji against Australia."
Meanwhile, Australia coach Mal Meninga has made two changes to his 19-strong match day quad for semi-final clash.
Prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard returns to the squad after missing Lebanon through injury, replacing Lindsay Collins, while Ben Hunt replaces Campbell Graham.
"Once again it has been extremely difficult to leave out players who have performed very well in our colours," said Meninga.
"This is our most important game of the World Cup for us and a great challenge against the calibre of the New Zealand side. I'm happy with our performances so far, but we all know we need to improve."
The Rugby League World Cup promises to be the biggest, best and most inclusive event in the sport’s 127-year history with men’s, women’s and wheelchair teams competing in 61 games across 21 venues throughout England. Tickets are available via rlwc2021.com/tickets