Mansour expects hostile NZ reception
Of this year's extended class of rookie Kangaroos – or Joeys, as some might classify them – winger Josh Mansour is arguably going to be the most prepared for the hostile environment awaiting Australia in Wellington.
Four years ago the Panthers wingman was one of two current Kangaroos – the other being fellow first-timer Josh Jackson – that travelled to the New Zealand capital as part of a junior Australian squad for a two-game series.
The series was tied one win apiece. But the visitors, as Sam Thaiday would eloquently put it, "jumped" the Junior Kiwis on their own turf in the opener.
And it was a pretty fair New Zealand side, too. The run-on side in that 2010 fixture included some promising names, four of whom Mansour will be facing again on Saturday evening on a grander stage.
"I played a few of the Kiwis in it. Marty Taupau, Dean Whare, there was a few boys there," he recalled to NRL.com.
"It was a tough game. I guess I know what I'm expecting [this week]. It's a great stadium."
The prodigious talents of halfback Shaun Johnson and Jason Taumalolo were also on show that day for New Zealand, and the pair have been two of the best performers for the undefeated Kiwis this tournament.
Mansour's Junior Kangaroos may have prevailed 24-16 in that game four years ago, but it was a very different story for his Test debut.
The 24-year-old was one of five rookies in Australia's tournament-opening side that was humbled just three weeks go by a confident New Zealand side at Suncorp. So it's safe to say his memories of his international initiation won't be evaporating any time soon.
"We couldn't play any worse than what we did in that first game. Things didn't go our way, losing Greggy [Inglis] and Daly [Cherry-Evans] in the first half really hurt us," he said.
"We did give away a lot of loose ball but we learnt from that. It's the one-percenters that win you games at the international level and that was the biggest learning point."
Case in point: "I stuffed up once – I let Peta Hiku get on the outside of me in-goal and I took that on the chin. So just those one-percenters and working for that whole 80 minutes – you can't switch off at all."
Many critics were quick to dismiss this troop of Joeys after just one game. But Mansour remained positive about helping Australia reinforce their standing as World Cup champions, particularly given the help he has been given by former clubmate and centre partner Michael Jennings.
"It's definitely good to play outside Jenko. When I debuted for the Panthers, I was playing outside him. I played outside him that whole year. He's a great player, he's very skilful and got great feet," Mansour said.
"Me as a winger couldn't ask for anyone else for a centre, especially being one of my best mates. It definitely means a lot to me and him and definitely good to pull on that Aussie jersey and play together."
The Kangaroos bounced back from that defeat to New Zealand with a nail-biter against England, before proceeding to Saturday's final by flexing their international muscle against the Samoans.
It doesn't mean Mansour's forgotten about game one, though.
"Personally, I think we were all over them in that first half. And all their tries were pretty soft and mostly our fault, to be honest," he continued.
"It's not going to be an easy game though. We've got to expect a big reception there and need to just absorb that first 40 and muscle them out."
Sounds like this Joey's been there before.