Stephen Kearney

Upset on the cards: Stephen Kearney at the Kiwis’ training. Photo: Getty Images

Australian players are wary of another ambush from New Zealand in the World Cup final after losing to the Kiwis in the last two big deciders the countries have played.

In fact, since New Zealand shocked the Kangaroos 24-0 in the 2005 Tri Nations final, the Kiwis have won three of the four tournament finals between the two countries and their only loss was in golden-point extra time.

New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney told a press conference at Old Trafford on Wednesday his side had only beaten Australia twice in the past five years, but both occasions hold painful memories for the Kangaroos.

"They were big matches – the 2008 World Cup final and the 2010 Four Nations final," Australian captain Cameron Smith said.

"The last two games we have played against them in finals we have lost to them, so we know they are going to be fired up but all we can do is the very best we can with what we plan to do."

With New Zealand only qualifying for the final after halfback Shaun Johnson scored with 20 seconds remaining against England and converted his own try for a 20-18 win, the Kangaroos are favourites.

But Australian coach Tim Sheens said he knows how his England counterpart Steve McNamara feels.

"In 2010, the Kiwis beat us in Brisbane in the last play of the last set from 70 metres out," Sheens said. "I'm very sympathetic to Steve McNamara in that regard. The Kiwis are capable of doing those things."

Despite New Zealand's imposing finals record, Smith said the players were braced for the flak they will cop if the Kangaroos fall short.

"If we win people will say that we should have won because they say we have got the strongest side here, and if we lose they will say it is a failure," Smith said.

"There is a lot of pressure on us and we know that but we have pretty high expectations of ourselves as well to go out and play well and win.

"It is going to take a special effort from us because they are a very good side. The one-off games we have taken care of in the past, but they got themselves out of jail on the weekend and I am sure they won't be letting this opportunity slip."

New Zealand have lost forward Frank Pritchard after he failed a fitness test on the injured hamstring that forced him out of last weekend's semi-final.

"We made a final decision on Frank this morning," Kearney said after announcing a 19-man squad on Thursday afternoon.

"He'd love to play, and we'd love to have him there, but the stakes are as high as they get this weekend and he's not 100 per cent. It's naturally very tough for him to be this close and ruled out, but we're very happy with our cover."

Alex Glenn, who took Pritchard's place in the last game, will again replace him, and it's likely captain Simon Mannering will slot into the second row with Elijah Taylor starting in the No.13 jersey.

Kearney is optimistic both Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (leg) and Manu Vatuvei (groin) will be fit to play, and both have trained this week. Jason Nightingale has been included in the squad as cover.

Sheens named star fullback Billy Slater, who has made a speedy recovery from what looked like a serious knee injury in their quarter-final win over the US, but a final decision will be made on the day of the game day.

The greatest uncertainty centres around the Australian bench. Nate Myles is likely to miss out on a place in the 17, but Sheens has refused to indicate whether it will be Brent Tate, Daly Cherry-Evans or Josh Papalii who join him.

Australia (likely): Billy Slater, Brett Morris, Greg Inglis, Jarryd Hayne, Darius Boyd, Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk, Matt Scott, Cameron Smith (c), James Tamou, Greg Bird, Sam Thaiday, Paul Gallen. Interchange: Daly Cherry-Evans, Josh Papalii, Andrew Fifita, Corey Parker.

New Zealand: Kevin Locke, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Dean Whare, Bryson Goodwin, Manu Vatuvei, Kieran Foran, Shaun Johnson, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Issac Luke, Jesse Bromwich, Simon Mannering (c), Sonny Bill Williams, Elijah Taylor. Interchange (two to be omitted): Ben Matulino, Sam Kasiano, Frank-Paul Nu'uausala, Alex Glenn, Greg Eastwood, Jason Nightingale.