Kiwis have No.1 RL ranking in sights

Try telling New Zealand captain Simon Mannering that Test rugby league is becoming irrelevant in State of Origin’s shadow.

The Kiwis will have the world No.1 ranking in their sights for the first time if they claim an historic trans-Tasman Test win in Brisbane on Friday night.

Victory will seal three straight wins over Australia for the first time in more than 60 years.

And a 15-game losing run in mid-year Tests against Australia spanning way back to 1998 would finally be over.

But Mannering believed a winning New Zealand team’s impact would resonate more outside the record books.

A usually rugby-mad New Zealand can claim top spot for the first time since the world league rankings began in 2007 if they down Australia and triumph in an end-of-year three-match series against England.

“It’s not so much claiming to be the top nation,” Mannering said.

“It’s more about bringing success to the Kiwi jersey.

“It would raise the profile of rugby league in New Zealand, where it is dominated by rugby union.

“And if the country is a success it would also help the profile of the international game.”

But Kangaroos captain Cameron Smith insisted New Zealand did not need to win to maintain interest in international league despite Origin’s popularity.

“There have been at times criticism of the international game but I can guarantee every player who gets to represent their country, it is a special moment,” Smith said ahead of Australia’s sole Test of 2015.

“It’s why you play the game.

“Origin has a huge profile but representing your country is the greatest thing you can do in the game.”

Smith said he was unaware of all the potential milestones in New Zealand’s sights on Friday night.

“It’s not a motivation,” he said.

Nor was revenge.

“We were disappointed with the Four Nations, we went into it with high expectations on ourselves and I don’t think we achieved those,” Smith said.

“We’re not trying to make up for that result, but we want to go out and play our best football tomorrow night.”

Mannering would not bite when asked if a win on Friday night would prove their Four Nations success was no fluke.

“Last year can’t be taken away from us,” he said.

“For us that has no effect on this game.

“This is a new challenge in a game that we have not done too well in.”

But Mannering added: “Any Test win against Australia is special – it doesn’t happen too often but we enjoyed our success of last year.

“Heading into this Test we don’t want to get caught up on the result too much.

“It’s what we bring to the table.”

Meanwhile, Jason Nightingale (foot) has been cleared to replace suspended winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak.

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