The Kiwi Ferns' upset win over the Jillaroos in the World Cup 9s final sets up an intriguing rematch in the longer form of the game at WIN Stadium on Friday night.
A total of 29 players set to play in the Test (14 for Australia, 15 for New Zealand) took part in the Nines less than a week ago with no love lost between the two nations following reports not a lot of hand-shaking took place after the final.
Kiwi Ferns centre Jules Newman delivered the first barb with a couple of heated exchanges towards Jillaroos players in the final and later labelled the Australians as cocky.
The Jillaroos haven't lost a Test match against the Kiwi Ferns since 2016 but were left chasing a win in the corresponding game last year with a late try through Australian centre Isabelle Kelly stealing a see-sawing 26-24 contest in Auckland.
Another close encounter is on the cards with the Kiwi Ferns closing the gap created by the Australians in recent years.
Match: Jillaroos v Kiwi Ferns
Round 2 -
Venue: WIN Stadium, Wollongong
- LIVE PASS
Jillaroos: The Jillaroos will line up 1-17 as named. Simaima Taufa had been in doubt with an ankle injury picked up in the NRLW but will take her place in the front row. Caitlan Johnston, Julia Robinson and Tiana Penitani joined the squad as cover this week but were not required.
Kiwi Ferns: The Kiwi Ferns are 1-17. Dragons forward Maitua Feterika is on the bench after she joined the squad for Aieshaleigh Smalley, who is sidelined by an ankle injury. Lavinia Gould withdrew from the squad due to personal reasons.
Fullback for Jillaroos is number 1 Corban McGregorFullback for Kiwi Ferns is number 1 Apii Nicholls
Winger for Jillaroos is number 2 Tiana PenitaniWinger for Kiwi Ferns is number 2 Kiana Takairangi
Centre for Jillaroos is number 3 Jessica SergisCentre for Kiwi Ferns is number 3 Honey Hireme
Centre for Jillaroos is number 4 Isabelle KellyCentre for Kiwi Ferns is number 4 Jules Newman
Winger for Jillaroos is number 5 Shakiah TungaiWinger for Kiwi Ferns is number 5 Atawhai Tupaea
Five-Eighth for Jillaroos is number 6 Kirra DibbFive-Eighth for Kiwi Ferns is number 6 Charntay Poko
Halfback for Jillaroos is number 7 Ali BrigginshawHalfback for Kiwi Ferns is number 7 Raecene McGregor
Prop for Jillaroos is number 8 Simaima TaufaProp for Kiwi Ferns is number 8 Annetta Nuuausala
Hooker for Jillaroos is number 9 Keeley DavisHooker for Kiwi Ferns is number 9 Krystal Rota
Prop for Jillaroos is number 10 Millie BoyleProp for Kiwi Ferns is number 10 Amber Hall
2nd Row for Jillaroos is number 11 Kezie Apps2nd Row for Kiwi Ferns is number 11 Onjeurlina Leiataua
2nd Row for Jillaroos is number 12 Annette Brander2nd Row for Kiwi Ferns is number 12 Crystal Tamarua
Lock for Jillaroos is number 13 Hannah SouthwellLock for Kiwi Ferns is number 13 Georgia Hale
Interchange for Jillaroos is number 14 Botille Vette-WelshInterchange for Kiwi Ferns is number 14 Nita Maynard
Interchange for Jillaroos is number 15 Chelsea LenarduzziInterchange for Kiwi Ferns is number 15 Teuila Fotu-Moala
Interchange for Jillaroos is number 16 Holli WheelerInterchange for Kiwi Ferns is number 16 Billy-Jean Ale
Interchange for Jillaroos is number 17 Tallisha HardenInterchange for Kiwi Ferns is number 17 Maitua Feterika
Dally M medallist Jess Sergis will have her hands full marking Honey Hireme-Smiler, one of the best players in the world, despite a breakout season of her own to claim best player honours in the recent NRLW competition. Hireme-Smiler missed the NRLW season due to her mother's passing and the time spent away ensures the Kiwi Ferns superstar has fresh legs for an 80-minute game.
For the Jillaroos to win
They'll need to find enough muscle in the middle to match the Kiwi Ferns forward pack. The international retirement of Heather Ballinger and omissions of experienced forwards Elianna Walton and Stephanie Hancock leave a void in the engine room. There will be a heavy reliance on emerging forwards Millie Boyle and Chelsea Lenarduzzi to fill the void.
For the Kiwi Ferns to win
They need to stay aggressive. Their performance in the Nines final – albeit a shortened format – was a style that seemed to rattle the Jillaroos. Their forward pack is the strongest it's been for some time and the balance in the halves with ball-playing forward Georgia Hale at lock gives them options they haven't had in recent times.
The Jillaroos had nine extra carries out of dummy half for an additional 173 metres in an otherwise evenly-poised corresponding game last year. This area of the field will be crucial given there is no Brittany Breayley for the Australians this time around, while the Kiwi Ferns have Krystal Rota and Nita Maynard rotating around the ruck.
And another thing...
Only 10 players remain from each nation since last year's corresponding Test match in October, indicating a changing of the guard continues for both sides. Fatigue is expected to be a factor late with temperatures in the mid-30s predicted during the day in Wollongong.
Be there live at WIN Stadium for the Test Match Double Header. Visit nrl.com/tickets to purchase tickets.