Nigel Wall,, NRL.com
Bulldogs centre Josh Morris fears Canterbury teammate Sam Kasiano’s decision to pledge allegiance to his native New Zealand could prove the biggest stumbling block to Australia maintaining their recent dominance over the World Champion Kiwis when the two rugby league superpowers lock horns in the Townsville heat on Saturday night.
“I think he will have a massive game,” Morris told NRL.com. “Now it is over [deciding between representing Queensland or New Zealand] it is a weight off his mind… he will play the best for his country.
“He probably tossed and turned a couple of nights there wondering who he was going to go with, but obviously Frank Pritchard and Greg Eastwood told him how good it [representing New Zealand] was.”
Morris said the Kangaroos were bracing for a physical encounter, with the big Kiwi engine room sure to test the mettle of the home side.
“They have named a massive forward pack… a lot of them were playing for Canterbury, so they have got the ability to ball play,” he said. “They’ll roll down the middle of the field, put themselves in good field position and hope for us to make some errors so they can capitalise on them.”
Morris also revealed he and twin brother Brett were planning an all-out attacking spree to help cement a long-term partnership in the green and gold, with the pair set to take the field for the Kangaroos for only the second time.
The irony is they will take their first steps towards securing a berth in the Australian squad for the 2013 Rugby League World Cup playing “out of position”.
The speedy 26-year-olds, who most recently represented Australia in 2009 when each scored two tries in a 42-4 victory over France, will line up alongside each other on the right side of the field for the first time since their NSW Cup days with St George Illawarra in 2006.
Since then Josh has developed into one of the most devastating centres in rugby league, confirmed by his selection for NSW in all three State of Origin clashes this year, while Brett has gained 10 Test caps and represented in the sky blue jersey on six occasions.
Morris said playing on the right side would represent a new challenge for the pair – and in another twist revealed the last time they attacked down that edge of the field he was on the wing and Brett was playing inside him at centre.
“It’s very important we take our opportunities – obviously these rep sides are the only chance we get to play together so if we can put in a good showing on Saturday night that could go a long way towards getting a spot in that squad in 2013,” Morris said.
The pair get the chance to shine at Dairy Farmers Stadium up against Kiwi left-side duo Dean Whare and Gerard Beale, who tally a modest 88 NRL games between them. Morris said he was looking forward to his one-on-one contest with Penrith-bound Whare, who is on debut for the Kiwis: the pair aren’t strangers, having progressed through the junior ranks at St George Illawarra.
“I have known him for quite a while and know he is a handy player and he has got some skills with his footwork as well,” Morris said. “We lost contact when we both parted ways [at the Dragons] but I still see him around and talk to him every now and again.
“He played on the wing when we played Manly – I haven’t marked up against him individually but I’m really looking forward to that test.”
Morris said he was slightly relieved to not be lining up opposite in-form Bulldogs teammates Krisnan Inu and Sam Perrett, who will attack down Australia’s left flank.
“I’m a little bit happy about that, it was good to see them named in the side – although I am sure at some stage Sammy Perrett will probably duck his way over to my side of the field!”
Morris is hopeful Johnathan Thurston, who is playing just his second game at five-eighth for the Kangaroos, can create opportunities down the right side of the field.
“If he does spend a bit of time out there it will be good… obviously he is playing in front of his home crowd and he normally has his best games in front of his home crowd, so if he does float out my way at some stage hopefully he can turn up some big plays and get down to the line.”
Asked how his body was holding up after a long season, Morris replied: “Ask me on Sunday morning! I haven’t really had a chance to think about it – things have been full-on pretty much.
“Having said that, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”