Australia v New Zealand: Johnson to lead Kiwi resistance

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Those who expect Australia to continue their steamroller-like domination of rugby league could be in for a shock this weekend when they take to the field in their Four Nations opener against New Zealand.

The Kangaroos have only lost one match in the tournament’s history, a 16-12 defeat to their close rivals in the final of the 2010 renewal, and are clearly a force to be reckoned with.

However, priced at 2/9 to continue that run at the Suncorp Stadium on Saturday, they represent no value in the circumstances.

Ladbrokes News’ Ben Stones take a look at why there are some better bets to have on the action in Brisbane.

New Zealand +12 @ 10/11

Australia may have won every game against the Kiwis since that 2010 defeat in this competition, but will be fielding a much changed squad this time round.

With Johnathan Thurston, Billy Slater, Darius Boyd, Brett Morris, James Tamou and Paul Gallen unavailable and Jarryd Hayne trying his arm at cracking the NFL, it could be debutants galore in the Green and Gold camp.

The quality will undoubtedly still be there, but with omissions in the All Blacks squad minimal, Stephen Kearney’s squad could run them close, and maybe even snatch a shock win.

Shaun Johnson to score anytime @ 2/1

If a surprise is to occur, Johnson could be the man to lead by example.

The half-back has got the ball over the line six times in eight Tests for his country, and was their shining star at the 2013 World Cup.

He added nine tries to his tally in the NRL for the Warriors last season, and his ability to break with pace and spot the gaps could come into play later in the game.

Michael Jennings to score two or more tries @ 5/1

One man who could benefit from injuries to his team mates is Michael Jennings. With Billy Slater out, Greg Inglis is likely to move to preferred position of full-back, allowing the Roosters centre to slot into his place.

With Slater and fellow top Four Nations tryscorer Thurston absent, there is room at the top-table for another Aussie to shine this month.

And having scored four tries in his pair of Australia caps so far and 11 in 18 in the NRL last season, he could be the man to step up.

All odds and markets correct as of the date of publishing

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Ben Stones

Ladbrokes News’ equine expert, Ben likes nothing more than studying the form to pick out a winner or two for our readers. A Journalism and Media Studies graduate from the University of Winchester, Ben has previously written for a number of football and racing blogs and websites, as well as contributing to the sports pages of his home-town newspaper.