Huddersfield: Kangaroos skipper James Tedesco doesn’t care what the rankings say, he’s declared his side the best in the world heading into their semi-final showdown against New Zealand.
Australia lost their final Test, before Covid halted international matches for almost three years, against Tonga and it proved costly.
It saw Mal Meninga’s men slip to fourth in the world rankings and put them on a collision course with the Kiwis – who are currently world No. 1 – at the World Cup.
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However most people aren’t taking the current rankings too seriously, including Tedesco who is determined to win the World Cup after missing the Kangaroos squad in 2017.
“We don’t give it much thought to be honest, I don’t think that really means much at this tournament,” Tedesco said.
“We see ourselves as the best so we’re going to play like that.
“We have that expectation that when we put that Australian jersey on that we’re going to win, so we have that confidence and I don’t think the rankings mean much to be honest.”
The bookies have the reigning world champions as firm favourites to beat New Zealand, but Kangaroos playmaker Daly Cherry-Evans claims they’re up against it.
“We’re the underdogs. They’re ranked No. 1 for a reason and the last couple years suggests they’ve been playing some high-level footy,” Cherry-Evans said.
“They’ve been playing more often than us so they’ve got a bit more continuity in their side and we don’t have any control over how the tournament is ranked.
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“All we know is we’re playing against a red-hot Kiwi side and we’re more than up to the challenge.
“We’ve been really aware of where the tournament is going to unfold and we had an idea that this game was coming.
“We know if we play our style of footy we’re going to be hard to beat but we’re going to have to take it to a new level to beat New Zealand but the foundation is definitely there for us to play some really good footy next week.”
The controversial rankings have been a talking point among Australian players, and halfback Nathan Cleary made reference to it when told of DCE’s underdog call.
“Well we’re ranked No. 4 in the world so I guess he’s right,” Cleary said.
“They’ve obviously got a great pack and some great players amongst their team, but that pack is definitely a strength… we’ll have to be on our A game.”
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Joseph Manu has been dominating at fullback for the Kiwis despite predominantly playing in centres in the NRL.
Tedesco, the man preventing Manu from playing fullback for the Roosters, admits his club teammate will take some stopping next Saturday AEST.
“He’s always had that talent for sure, he’s just been out in the centres,” Tedesco said.
“We realised this year (at the Roosters) that we want to get him more ball in the middle and he can pretty much play anywhere, he just creates space and is playing off the back of a good forward pack of the Kiwis.
“We definitely need to not give them those opportunities to slow the ruck down and it’s going to be a tough task, they have a great forward pack and Joey has been creating stuff off the back of that.”