Kiwis deserve to believe: Jones
The man who engineered one of the Kiwis' greatest Test match victories has urged the current team to take belief into the Four Nations Final in Wellington on Saturday night despite the expected backlash from the Kangaroos.
Prior to New Zealand's 30-12 victory over the Kangaroos on October 25, Stacey Jones was the last Kiwi halfback to beat Australia in the opening game of a tournament, back in the 2005 Tri Nations.
That year New Zealand went on to record a 24-0 shutout of their trans-Tasman rivals in the final and Jones said the recent success should inspire them to reach for glory in a rare tournament decider on home soil.
It is no secret that beating Australia is rare – historically the Kiwis have won their head-to-head clashes only 23 per cent of the time – and chances like Saturday night's to beat the Kangaroos in New Zealand are even less common.
The 1998 Anzac Test, where Jones lined up alongside Robbie Paul in the halves, was the last time the Kiwis won a significant trophy against Australia in New Zealand but the 46-Test legend said that have earned the right to be confident of victory.
"They are in front of their own crowd and a final being played in New Zealand hasn't happened for a long time," Jones said.
"They have now got an opportunity to win something in front of their own crowd.
"Every time you play for your country you always think you are going to win the game. They are a very good team this Kiwi side and they should go into every game thinking they can win it."
Confidence may be high on the back of their undefeated run through the Four Nations tournament but Jones was also quick to warn his modern-day contemporaries that they will be facing a far different Kangaroos outfit on Saturday.
"Anytime you beat Australia it gives you some sort of confidence," said Jones, who coached the Warriors under-20s to a third premiership this season.
"But it can always be a danger when you beat a team that is always historically on top of their game.
"Anytime you sort of tap a sleeping giant it can turn into a tough situation, and I am sure Australia will be aware of that and be looking for a bit of revenge.
"But this is a quality Kiwi side who can hold their own. All the Kiwis have to do really is back their own ability.
"New Zealand are a team that is full of world class players and that is how they have got to play.
"They have to look at the Australian team and think that they are on par with them and then just go from there."
New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney meanwhile has made it clear that his side won't be getting ahead of themselves, despite being unbeaten throughout the Four Nations and enjoying the luxury of home ground advantage for the decider.
"We have watched the Australians in terms of their improvement over the last few weeks – a really tough performance against England and then also a wonderful match against Samoa – so we know what we are in for [on Saturday] night," Kearney said.
"I think [playing in New Zealand] can be of assistance, there is no doubt about that.
"But essentially it will come down to the 17 guys who take the field for us making sure they do their jobs really well.
"Hopefully playing in front of our home crowd will help that, but we need to make sure we are getting our job done first."
Making that job tougher is the loss of 33-Test hooker Thomas Leuluai, who sustained a shoulder injury as well as a bad facial cut against England last Saturday.
"When you are replacing Tommy with Issac Luke it is a fairly handy replacement," Kearney said.
"Certainly the way [replacement dummy-half] Lewis Brown played in the first two matches was a real positive for us and it has been fairly seamless in that sense.
"Kieran [Foran] and Shaun [Johnson] obviously take up a bit more because Tommy is a good talker; we have all put our hands up in terms of the playmaking and doing a bit more."