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The Rock-itt : November 2009
The NRL Season may be over but we still have 6 weeks of Rugby League to look forward to with the 4- Nations getting underway, with the first time France joins powerhouses Australia, New Zealand, and England as they face off around the UK and France. Australia go into the tournament overwhelming favourites boasting an all-star line-up with names such as Greg Inglis, Jonathan Thurston, Dally M Medal winner Jarryd Hayne, and Manly Sea Eagles superstar Anthony Watmough leading the Kangaroos. But the Aussies favouritism tag doesn't sit well with Benji Marshall and his New Zealand Kiwis who believe after upsetting Australia and clinching last year's World Cup should be the more fancied side. New Zealand will rely on their massive forward pack in this series led by Fui Fui Moi Moi, Adam Blair, and Jeff Lima as well as youngsters Frank-Paul Nuuausala and Jared Warea-Hargraves. England are somewhat the dark horses in the 4- Nations. They were woeful in last year's world cup with their only win coming in a tight match against minnows Papua New Guinea. The English officials and coaching staff have dropped many of the older statesman from the world cup side and have injected the best of the British youth including Sam Burgess who many experts consider the best young front row forward of all-time. If the youth's skill and enthusiasm combine with the older players' experience, England may shock everyone and claim the trophy. This year France entered the tournament, thus going from the Tri- Nations to the 4-Nations, and no- one expects much from the French with the majority of the side playing only for the Catalans Dragons in the Super Leagues and never having lining up against names such as Marshall, Lockyer, and Gareth Ellis. 'Les Chant éclairs' do boast some former NRL talent with former St. George Illawarra Dragon Clint Greenshields being eligible for selection due to playing in France for 3 years. Former Brisbane Broncos utility, Casey McGuire was also initially selected for France but pulled out due to an exhausting Super League Season. The Host Nations, England and France met in the 4-Nations opener and it was the new boys, France who had the English on the back foot early taking a 12-4 lead at halftime with French young gun Vincent Duport causing some issues for the Lions. England, though, returned from the half-time sheds and put a number on France and the game began to pan out like many thought it would with England running rampant scoring 30 points in the second half for the 34-12 victory. The second game of round 1 of the tournament put the other teams on notice, The Kangaroos, Kiwis game was faster, more brutal, and provided a higher skill level than the first with the World Cup Final rematch living up to the hype. Both teams began the match hell-bent on dishing out punishment to their rivals with Fui Fui Moi Moi, Petero Civoniceva, Ben Hannant, and Jared Warea-Hargraves putting on the big shots. The Kiwis drew first blood after 5 minutes with Frank Paul-Nuuausala crossing. Australia replied shortly before halftime with Brett Morris finishing off a break from Inglis who received a great flick pass from Cameron Smith. The Kangaroos took the lead early in the second half with Jonathan Thurston stripping the ball from the Kiwi fullback to score, and then the Cowboys halfback extended the lead further with a penalty goal shortly after. The Kiwis look as though they would repeat the World Cup final heroics with 3 straight tries to Junior Sau, Lance Hohaia, and Frank Pritchard putting NZ in front with just 4 minutes to go, but it was Greg Inglis who offloaded to Cameron Smith to score and save the Aussies with just 2 minutes to go, ending the match in a 20 all draw.