Hugh McGahan: No place for Manu in my Kiwis team

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Manu Vatuvei has been out of form. Photo / Getty Images
Manu Vatuvei has been out of form. Photo / Getty Images

I hope someone has reminded the Australian administrators, media and fans that there is a test match being played this Friday and their country is involved.

It is certainly low key for them but it's to be expected as they are focused on State of Origin - which has been the topic from the start of the season. The form of players, eligibility rules and injury has been discussed to the core and this week's test has been lost in the debate.

Unfortunately this test is a hiccup to their more fancied rep fixture - NSW vs QLD - and they wonder why international football is not important.

As we all know, the Australians can select a couple of teams comfortably and compete against all opposition, but they do not immerse themselves in it in the same way as their inter-state rivalry.

Fans from both states will barely blink twice when their country announces their side to play the Kiwi team in the annual Anzac clash.

Having said all that, here is my prospective Kiwi team - selected on form but which will certainly open debate:

1. Josh Hoffman
2. Jason Nightingale
3. Gerard Beale
4. Shaun Kenny-Dowall
5. Matt Duffie
6. Kieran Foran
7. Benji Marshall
8. Ben Matulino
9. Isaac Luke
10. Kevin Proctor
11. Simon Mannering
12. Alex Glenn
13. Jeremy Smith
Bench: Fuifui Moimoi,
Sam Rapira, Jared Waerea-
Hargreaves, Nathan Fien,
18th man Jason Taumalolo

I wish I could find a place for Sam Kasiano and James Tamou as they are probably the form Kiwi front rowers in the NRL (along with Matulino) but, given their decision to play State of Origin, were not considered.

Obviously people are going to say, "where's Manu Vatuvei?"

We need him there for his destructive running and try-scoring ability.

But please remember I said this side was chosen on form and Manu is not even close.

Steve Matai is another who may feel unlucky but we can no longer live on the reckless nature of his defence and hope that he does not sustain an injury to himself or an opponent; the latter is normally due to a misdemeanour.

We can no longer place second rowers in this position either and expect to win tests.

There was also a desire to place Shaun Johnson on the bench to keep others honest, but the nature of the bench requires a little more versatility and Fien covers that better.

Goalkicking is a major concern as well and we have Benji in this role but, to be honest, as he is the major playmaker and captain as well, it's a little too much to ask. The last few times he has stepped onto the field in the Kiwi jersey he has not lived up to the expectation and can't say he did his best in all three roles.

Unfortunately there is no obvious contender to take over as goalkicker, though Issac Luke can be handy from close range.

Many will differ re the selection of the team and of taking the kicking off Marshall but, until he relieves himself of one of those duties, he cannot expect to be dominant in any. I did say I'd open debate...

- Herald on Sunday

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