Previewing these Kiwis vs England games is fairly difficult when coach Michael Maguire doesn't want to name his team until the last minute, then Maguire comes out and names a 20-man squad for this third and final Test. As such, we've got no idea what Kiwis team will take the field and again, this hinders how much preview funk I can offer outside of guessing who will line up where.
Jordan Rapana has returned to Australia after suffering an injury in the second Test and to be honest, I'm not all that fussed about Rapana's absence. The Kiwis again struggled with the grind of international footy in that second Test, especially with England executing their simple set-for-set then pounce style of footy. A dropped bomb in the in-goal area from Rapana and then a error in carting the footy out of the Kiwis end, again via Rapana, influenced the game heavily as the Kiwis were trying to build their own pressure but instead, Rapana's errors allowed England to do their thing.
The entire Kiwis team have struggled to sustain 80 minutes of Test footy and with a new group, that's to be expected so I'm not too downbuzz about these performances. Rapana though, played through injury and it showed in key moments, which offers some fresh vibes to the possible inclusion of either Jamayne Isaako or Gerard Beale.
Both have been called up to the squad, alongside Isaiah Papali'i. Jahrome Hughes will again be a part of the squad and other than the strong chance of Isaako replacing Rapana, I've got no idea what Maguire will do.
With the series wrapped up in England's favour, we could see the Kiwis go all in on delivering the funk, although desperation to not get swept could see them simplify things to zone in on winning this Test. It's a bit creepy how the first two Tests played out in extremely similar ways as England settled into their groove late in the first half, establish their set-for-set control and enjoy the spoils of all their hard work in the last 10-15mins.
The Kiwis lost the first Test by 2 points, the second by 6 points which is a converted try and that's even more reason to not be too depressed about Kiwis footy right now. Despite the feeling that the Kiwis have been thoroughly out-played via England's control, the scoreboard doesn't reflect that and the Kiwis have been in the mix on both occasions. The similarities continue in pondering what has worked well for the Kiwis as they have scored tries easily, when they themselves offer control, patience and class; their tries have been of the rugby league nerd artistic variety.
When the Kiwis move away from a simple, structured style that allows wiggle room for razzle dazzle and go straight into hectic razzle dazzle, they drift further and further away from winning the game. Hence, I'm intrigued as to how the Kiwis approach this game because the 'nothing to lose' vibe could see them go too far down the razzle dazzle path.
That path has only led to two losses. At this point, I'm not so concerned about the result as I am about seeing the Kiwis learn from the two losses and make progress throughout the series. That could very well lead to a win, if the Kiwis can sustain the refined, classy footy that has seen them look fantastic in moments thus far. All the evidence however, points to a scenario where the Kiwis are able to showcase their progress and England fall back on their know-how, the winning habit to get the result.
As I worked my way through writing this preview, I end up with the message of being comfortable with a loss. Consider this a health warning, or a viewing guide because a loss will obviously bring a lot of negative energy and I have a feeling that the Kiwis could be awesome, but still lose. As Kiwis fans, we should zone in whether we see growth in the Kiwis performance and keep the bigger picture in mind. Otherwise, you'll be in for a crappy start to nek week.
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Peace and love 27.