Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga has hit back at Phil Gould’s criticism of Friday’s win over New Zealand, saying the rugby league commentator hasn’t played Test footy before.
The Channel Nine analyst was scathing of Australia’s 16-0 win of the Kiwis in Newcastle on Friday night, claiming that the current line-up would have no chance of winning next year’s World Cup.
“We’re kidding ourselves about winning the World Cup if this is the best we can produce,” Gould said.
Meninga, in his first game in charge of the national team, immediately returned serve post-match.
“Phil hasn’t played test match footy before,” Meninga said.
“He’s a great judge of the game. It disappoints me that someone of his ilk would say that.
“It’s not too often in any game, but certainly in Test match footy, where you hold a team to zero.”
The Kangaroos had cantered to a 12-0 lead by halftime but failed to kick on after the break despite enjoying at least 50 plays inside the Kiwis’ red zone.
A late try to Blake Ferguson and a penalty goal to Cameron Smith were the only points of the half.
The longer the game went, the harsher Gould’s assessment became, and he eventually took aim at the elder statesmen of the team.
Half of Meninga’s line-up against the Kiwis are 30 years or older, including skipper Cameron Smith and man-of-the-match Paul Gallen.
“They can’t possibly be thinking this is the side for the World Cup at the end of next year. Don’t get me wrong – they have all been excellent players. But there comes a time,” Gould said.
Smith defended the side, labelling it one of the best Kangaroos line-ups in history.
“I think it’s one of the best footy sides that’s been assembled for the green and gold. Tell me a guy that doesn’t deserve to be here tonight,” he said.
“We’re all in great form. The guy that got man of the match tonight is the oldest bloke in the competition. It probably speaks volumes in itself.”
Meninga said Gould’s comments took the gloss off a physical contest.
“We’ve come to a media conference and we’re talking about age and what Phil Gould’s talked about. People have got to understand what Test match footy is,” he said.
“You don’t really understand if you don’t play it, to be honest with you.”