Sheens backs Thurston and Lockyer to hit top form

Australia coach Tim Sheens has backed Jonathon Thurston to return to his best in the Kangaroos’ one-off Test against New Zealand in Newcastle (Sunday 6am, BST).

Thurston was injured playing for Queensland in the final State of Origin fixture, and struggled to return to form after making his return with the Cowboys.

The Test against New Zealand is the second leg of the Bill Kelly Memorial Trophy – Australia beat the Kiwis 20-10 in Robina in May – and is a warm-up before the Gillette Four Nations in Britain.

Sheens is confident in his half-back partnership of Thurston and Darren Lockyer, despite Lockyer suffering a fractured cheekbone for Brisbane in the NRL play-offs last month.

“[Thurston] looks great, it’s the best I have seen him look physically – he really looks good,” said Sheens.

“Locky is looking good, very confident and is training well and I don’t envisage any problems, they just want to get out and play now.”

The two sides will meet again at Haliwell-Jones Stadium in the opening game of the Four Nations in two weeks’ time, and Sheen does not want New Zealand to travel to the UK with a psychological advantage.

“We don’t want to lift the Kiwis’ spirits before they go over there – we want a good, strong game,” he said. “There are a lot of good reasons for playing well. No one wants a losing Test on their resume.”

New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney has named five uncapped players in his side to face the Kangaroos, but captain Benji Marshal believes the new players will be unfazed.

Kearney has called up Broncos pair Gerard Beale and Alex Glenn, Cowboys youngster Kalifa Faifai Loa and NZ Warriors duo Kevin Locke and Russell Packer.

“The good thing about the young guys is that they are all in good form and they won’t shy away from their job with the team,” said Marshall.

“I’ll give advice when it’s needed, but they all have pretty good heads on their shoulders and they won’t let anyone down.”

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