RUGBY LEAGUE: Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga and captain Cameron Smith are wary of Australia being made heavy favourite to claim its third Four Nations title this weekend at Anfield.
Australia finished with three wins from three tournament pool matches after last weekend's 36-18 win over England.
The Kiwis limped through to the final with a win over England, a loss to Australia and a draw with Scotland, the last of which made them the first first-tier nation to fail to beat a tier-two side.
Despite the odds being heavily in Australia's favour to win on Monday morning (12.30am AEST), Smith said his previous experiences suggested that would mean nothing come kick-off.
"I recall that was the same outlook from media and public in 2008 in the World Cup in Australia, the same outlook by the media and public in 2010 at the Four Nations,” Smith said.
"I played in both of those matches where everyone thought it was just Australia who were going to run up and win, and we didn't.
"So we are not under any illusions about who we are facing this week and what they are capable of doing.
"They are ranked No.1 in the world at the moment and coming off their match on the weekend I think they will be particularly desperate to show everyone what they are capable of doing.”
Australia has beaten the Kiwis in their past three meetings, outscoring their trans-Tasman rivals 56 points to 14.
The Kiwis, already touring without Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Kieran Foran, are furthered weakened by the loss of five-eighth Thomas Leuluai, who suffered a fractured jaw in the 18-all draw with Scotland in Workington.
But Meninga fears the strength of the Kiwi culture.
"There is no doubt New Zealand will come really well prepared and feeling that they have got a second chance, and because of that they will want to play as best as they possibly can,” Meninga said.
"Doesn't matter (about form guides or opinions), doesn't matter, it is a funny game rugby league, or any sport really.”
The Anfield decider is the first time the Kiwis have qualified for a Four Nations final on English soil, while Australia has won both of the previous tournaments held in England, in 2009 and 2011.
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