League: Seven changes in Kiwis to face France

By Michael Brown

New Zealand's Kevin Locke, center, will be out in force again. Photo / Getty Images
New Zealand's Kevin Locke, center, will be out in force again. Photo / Getty Images

Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney followed a plan as opposed to form when picking his side to play France in Avignon on Saturday morning.

Kearney has made seven changes to the playing 17, which will ensure all 24 players in the touring squad will get a run in the opening two games of the World Cup. It's a logical approach given the short turnaround, and injuries will come into the equation later in the tournament.

Kevin Locke, Jason Nightingale, Krisnan Inu, Ben Matulino, Alex Glenn and Greg Eastwood will play while Sonny Bill Williams, Dean Whare, Sam Moa, Jesse Bromwich, Josh Hoffman and Manu Vatuvei will sit out the match.

Thomas Leuluai was set to make his first start of the tournament but pulled out half an hour into training due to a groin injury. Kieran Foran will start in the six jersey once again.

"The idea right from the start of the tournament was to give everyone an opportunity to stake a claim for a position," Kearney said.

"That hasn't changed because of the performance against Samoa on Sunday."

The Kiwis emerged from that 42-24 win with plenty to think about, not least of all for Kearney who needs to find the right mix when they move through to the knockout stages.

Centre is one of the main areas. Dean Whare, named man of the match against Samoa, has locked down one position but the role on the other edge is up for grabs. Bryson Goodwin was poor against Samoa. He missed six tackles and made one error as they targeted his side and scored four tries in 11 minutes. He gets another chance against France, with Krisnan Inu replacing Whare.

The Kiwis are missing a couple of handy centre options for the World Cup, with Roosters centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall out with a broken jaw and the Warriors' Konrad Hurrell playing for Tonga instead but Kearney could call on the likes of Elijah Taylor, Simon Mannering and Glenn to play there if he needed to.

Vatuvei picked up ankle and knee injuries against Samoa and might not train fully this week, meaning Nightingale will play, but the remaining players have been left out to give opportunities to others.

Williams picked up a few bumps last weekend, as well as a bruised ego after butchering a try, but would have been right to play. Instead, Kearney wanted to give Glenn a run as well as give Pritchard more game time.

The Kiwis should beat France comfortably on Saturday morning but this World Cup has already shown there are few easy games. France just scraped past Papua New Guinea 9-8 in their opening game.

Kiwis team:
1 Kevin Locke, 2 Jason Nightingale, 3 Bryson Goodwin, 4 Krisnan Inu, 5 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, 6 Kieran Foran, 7 Shaun Johnson, 8 Ben Matulino, 9 Issac Luke, 10 Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, 11 Frank Pritchard, 12 Alex Glenn, 13 Simon Mannering. 14 Elijah Taylor, 15 Sam Kasiano, 16 Frank-Paul Nu'uausala, 17 Greg Eastwood, 18 Jesse Bromwich, 19 Josh Hoffman


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