If New Zealand were ever going to break their 16 year drought in the traditional one-off Test and in the process claim three straight wins over Australia for the first time since 1953, this is it.
The Kiwis are a young team brimming with confidence from their Four Nations win last year and are no longer a team that the Kangaroos can rely on to run out of petrol in the final 20 minutes.
Jesse Bromwich and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck are in every essence superstars of the game and even with walk-up starters Dean Whare, Jason Taumalolo and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak missing, they have an established squad perfectly meshing youth and experience.
Their bench is an obvious strength with Martin Taupau and Sam Moa giving Steve Kearney’s team a one-two punch when they come into the game.
With in-form playmaker Benji Marshall overlooked, all eyes will be on out of sorts Kiwis halves Kieran Foran and Shaun Johnson to step up to the mark and create the big plays.
Ultimately that is where the game will be won and lost, because for all intents and purposes, you know what you are going to get from the Kangaroos: a disciplined and well-oiled machine.
The Queensland spine of Greg Inglis, Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith can write a book on how to win big games, and as long as their forwards give them a 50-50 chance, they will take advantage of it.
The spotlight for Tim Sheens’ team is firmly on the ageing forward pack which is missing workhorse Paul Gallen and will heavily bankroll their go-forward on the ever reliable Matt Scott and the in-form Aaron Woods.
Tip: Kangaroos by 4
City vs Country
It’s hard to run a form for City-Country in what is essentially an individual shootout for Origin jumpers, headlined by the No.6 battle between James Maloney and Josh Reynolds. With both teams missing a recognised halfback, the game could descend into a forward battle which gives the edge slightly to Country with Tyson Frizell, Kade Snowden and Joel Thompson starting 2015 in sublime form.
Their opposition can legitimately be classed as City slickers with speed to burn out wide with the likes of James Roberts, James Tedesco and Matt Moylan in the mix.
City props Andrew Fifita and David Klemmer make their return from suspension to lead a young forward pack that could form the basis of the NSW pack in years to come especially Wade Graham and Curtis Sironen. Traditionally a tight game and expect nothing less on Sunday.
Tip: City by 6
Fiji vs PNG
Injury has cost Fiji their most electrifying player in Eels flyer Semi Radradra, but NRL stars Kevin Naiqama, Marika Koroibete and Eto Nabuli still form an explosive Bati backline that give Fiji the edge in this one. Guided by the Millard brothers – Darryl and Ryan – Fiji has the added advantage of NRL experience in the forward pack with Jayson Bukuya (Sharks), Korbin Sims (Knights) and Apisai Koroisau (Panthers) in their 17.
Only three players contracted to NRL clubs – Nene MacDonald (Roosters) and Ray Thompson (Cowboys) and Luke Page (Raiders), are in the Kumuls team. Of which, Page, who is yet to make his NRL debut, is one to watch after a great start to the year with Mounties in the NSW Cup. The Kumuls squad is dominated by players from the PNG Hunters team in the Queensland Cup. The seventh placed Hunters notched a come-from-behind win against Burleigh at the weekend with captain and Kumuls five-eighth Israel Eliab scoring two tries.
Tip: Fiji by 12
Samoa vs Tonga
After an impressive showing in the Four Nations, Samoa will look to continue their rise in the international game when they play Tonga in the main event of the Pacific Test double header.
With both teams lacking NRL experience in the halves, the game is likely to be decided in the forwards with both teams assembling high quality big men.
Josh McGuire, Frank Pritchard, Leeson Ah Mau and Sam Kasiano form the basis of the Samoa pack that will be looking to give flyers Joseph Leilua and Ricky Leutele room to move.
For Tonga, explosive backs Konrad Hurrell, Mahe Fonua and Tuimoala Lolohea will be hoping their front six – headlined by Manu Ma’u, Siosiua Taukeiaho and Sika Manu – can hold their own in what is likely to be a lively game in the middle.
Tip: Tonga by 1