David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

Rugby League: Stephen Kearney insists no one is guaranteed Kiwis selection

Issac Luke will need to play his way in to a black jersey. Photo / Getty
Issac Luke will need to play his way in to a black jersey. Photo / Getty

Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney has put the heat on Warriors hooker Issac Luke to stand up and be counted at NRL level over the next week, saying he is not guaranteed of selection for the upcoming transtasman test against the Kangaroos in Newcastle.

The Kiwis head to Hunter Stadium on May 6 looking for their fourth consecutive win over Australia, but Kearney said Luke - who was co-captain together with Adam Blair on the Kiwis end of season tour of England last year - and halves Shaun Johnson and Kieran Foran were not certainties to make the team.

Kearney may just be looking to inspire all three players into producing their best form, before naming his 18-man squad following the completion of the round nine NRL matches next Sunday night.

However, he was firm in his belief that the depth of quality players available for New Zealand selection meant that no positions were guaranteed.

"When you say Issac, there's no guarantee of a position," Kearney told Radio Sport when asked about his hooker and halves combinations.

"Kieran and Shaun have been very good for us in the past, Issac certainly comes into consideration, but we have a couple of other options there too.

"We haven't made our minds up definitely there. This weekend's games are very important for everyone."

For Luke and Johnson, the Warriors Anzac Day clash against the Storm presents an opportunity to quash any doubts in Kearney's mind, when they mark up against Queensland and Kangaroos pair Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk.

They also have next Sunday's game against the Dragons at Mt Smart Stadium to further bolster their claims, while Parramatta captain Foran will be looking to bounce back from Saturday's defeat to the Cowboys, when the Eels host the Bulldogs next Friday.

Elsewhere, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck's season-ending ACL injury means Kearney is considering his outside back options, but he declared Peta Hiku, who played centre in last year's transtasman clash before filling in at five-eighth in the two-one series loss to England, as the leading contender to fill the No1 jersey.

"Peta Hiku will be first and foremost or young Tui Lolohea," he said. "But whoever fills the opportunity it's a chance for that individual to shine. I don't think we've got a lack of depth in any position."

Meanwhile, Kearney is also hoping Blair can escape suspension after he was cited for a high tackle in the Broncos win over South Sydney on Friday.

"Adam missed last year's Anzac test also and if he does miss this game I'll be very disappointed for him," he said.

"But I'm very confident about the depth that we'll be able to choose a player to fill his position and whoever we do choose will perform very, very well."

- NZ Herald

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