Giant Fifita taunts England
Towering Kangaroos debutant Andrew Fifita has taunted the England forward pack and their fans in the lead-up to Australia's World Cup opener in Cardiff on Sunday, saying any negativity directed at the Kangaroos' players will only make the visitors play better.
"Give it to me all you want – it just gets me going harder," Fifita told NRL.com on the eve of his Test debut in the green and gold.
"I don't know how to explain it – I love it, it gets me going. I love the negative talk against us it just makes you fly off. It lifts me to another level."
The hulking Sharks forward said the experience of playing for NSW against Queensland at Suncorp Stadium this year had helped him channel his emotions and shut out a baying crowd – something he hopes to achieve at a packed Millennium Stadium against an imposing England forward pack boasting three of the four famous Burgess brothers.
Fifita was the NRL's most improved player in 2013, clawing out more metres than any other player, leading all props for tries (nine) and tackle-breaks (103) and finishing third in his position for line-breaks and offloads.
His rise up the ranks coincided with greater responsibility as a starting member of the Cronulla pack – he figured in the run-on side on 10 occasions in 2013 after playing 20 of 22 games in 2012 off the interchange bench.
However, despite his increased game time at club level Fifita said he preferred to be saved as a strike weapon for the Kangaroos off the pine.
"Coming off the bench suits me fine, I would rather that than start the game," he explained. "I think I can bring some good impact to the team.
"There are two different spins – when you start, in that first 20 minutes everyone is pressured, everyone is ready to go and you prepare that way.
"When you come off the bench you have got that mentality to go forward and you have got that advantage. I've got my size [114kg, 196cm] so it's a bit of an advantage to come off the bench."
Fifita revealed that team discussions during the week had centred around nullifying the threat of the huge England pack, with a particular focus on star South Sydney trio Sam, George and Thomas Burgess.
"We have talked about it all week. I think England has the biggest pack... when you look at our squad we aren't the biggest forward pack but we are a talented bunch.
"England are big, they are strong and the talent they have got – especially with Sam, Tom and Georgie Burgess and his stellar season – anything is possible. We are expecting big things from them."
Fifita said he would be dedicating his game to his wife Nikkita, whom he wed just before flying to the UK, and infant son Latu Jay.
"They mean everything to me – I don't think words can explain it," he said. "That is why I am here. They got me here and this is the last thing I need to tick off to pursue their dreams and my dreams.
"I can't wait – I'm that passionate just to wear the green and gold... I wore it for the team photo and I was getting all emotional but to play in it [World Club] is the highest achievement and it will be a dream come true and the finishing touch to an awesome season."