James Tedesco admits he's overplayed his hand as Kangaroos skipper in the past, and has vowed to play his natural game in Australia's crunch Rugby League World Cup semi-final clash against New Zealand on Saturday morning (AEDT).
The Kangaroos meet the Kiwis after their emphatic quarter-final thumping of Lebanon, with the New Zealanders overcoming a scare in their victory over Fiji in the last eight.
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Damaging Kangaroos' prop Campbell-Gillard is set to return to the Aussie pack in a big boost for Mal Meninga's side, who are expecting the Kiwis to lift in the trans-Tasman showdown.
Tedesco says while the Kiwis were far from convincing against Fiji, the Aussie side is bracing for a response from a New Zealand side that needs no added motivation against their fierce rivals.
“They were probably looking to this game instead of focusing on that game and they weren’t at their best, but I know 100 per cent they’ll be ready to go this week,” Tedesco said.
“We’re expecting them to come out and be at their best, for sure. It’s going to be definitely our hardest challenge so far and it’s going to be an 80-minute game for us.”
New Zealand didn't take the lead against Fiji until the final 10 minutes and Meninga warned his side they would be facing a different prospect this week.
"They probably got an awakening and it would've knocked their motivation back into place," the Kangaroos coach said.
"Without being disrespectful, it's been quite an easy ride for the top teams in this tournament. That probably made them realise they needed to knuckle down.
"We are not under illusion to the challenge that's in front of us, they've got a really good footy team who will want to play well. We've got to combat that to come out on top."
James Tedesco vows to play natural game
Tedesco says he's "learned his lesson" from past matches at representative level, where the superstar fullback admits he's probably tried to do too much as skipper.
“I’ve learned that as captain, especially at Roosters and in Origin, you can definitely carry the weight of the team sometimes,” he said.
“When I do that it hinders my performance, so I’ve learned over the past couple of years that being captain is just to be myself, play my footy and lead by my actions and my words.
“When I do that, that’s when I play my best and the team follows. I’ve definitely learned my lesson there.”
The Aussie captain insists the return of Reagan Campbell-Gillard from a hamstring complaint will add a crucial level of aggression and experience to the Kangaroos side.
“Reg is a massive in, he had a huge year for Parramatta. He’s just a leader that goes forward and when he carries the ball it makes everyone want to carry as hard as him,” Tedesco said.
“He leads by example and we missed him but the Kiwis pack is very strong and it’s not just on Reg, it’s up to our whole pack to stand up to them and go after them.”
The Parramatta forward will be tasked with taking down a Kiwis' side which boasts a formidable forward pack, including the likes of Nelson Asofa-Solomona, James Fisher-Harris and Moses Leota.
"He's experienced, he was there in 2017 as well. He's the leader of the pack and he's looking forward to playing," Meninga added.
"He got unlucky the week before but he's an important cog in our forward pack, he brings that aggression for us."
Meninga confirmed Ben Hunt would start at hooker with Melbourne No. 9 Harry Grant set to come off the bench, in a move that could spell an end to Daly Cherry-Evans' Kangaroos career.
Australia have won 14 of 15 World Cup games against the Kiwis, with their only defeat coming in the 2008 decider.
Tedesco revealed his side would face down the haka in the shape of a boomerang and says he's relishing the battle against Kiwi superstar and Roosters teammate Joseph Manu.
"I'm keen to play up against him, he is their main guy. He's a big part of their team and he does so much work for them that it'll be a big job defensively to keep him quiet," Tedesco said.
"Their whole spine can create anything and spark their team."
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