League: Stephen Kearney confident in out of form Warriors

Kiwis and Warriors forward Ben Matulino. Photo / Getty
Kiwis and Warriors forward Ben Matulino. Photo / Getty

They might be out of form at club level but Stephen Kearney is confident of getting the best out of the Warriors contingent when the Kiwis take on Australia in next Friday's Anzac test in Newcastle.

The Warriors were thumped 42-0 by Melbourne on Monday night in one of the worst performances in the club's history. Kearney admitted he was concerned about the form of a couple of Warriors, and said that would be reflected in his squad, but also felt the ones picked would lift when they came into Kiwis camp.

"If we take ourselves back 12 months, people were suggesting I didn't pick Shaun Johnson but I thought he was our best player against Australia in Brisbane," the Kiwis coach said. "I'm confident, given the environment they will come into, that the guys who are picked from the Warriors that we will be able to lift them and get them up to speed."

Two Warriors players who will definitely be missing are fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and utility Tui Lolohea (both knee) and Kearney is now likely to be without his captain Simon Mannering (he had surgery on Monday night to reattach his lip to his face).

Mannering will be given time to prove his fitness but will miss the Warriors' match against the Dragons on Sunday - the club expects him to be out for 1-2 weeks.

Injuries and suspensions could necessitate a couple of individuals playing out of position.
"Peta Hiku comes to mind with a couple of injuries that have come about in the last couple of weeks," Kearney said. "Peta is playing left centre at the moment with Penrith but could find himself back at fullback.

"We still have a round of football to go [before the squad is named] but I'm pretty comfortable with the cover we have got in all positions. I'm pretty happy with what we will come up with."

Winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak could finally make his international debut after twice being selected but missing out through injury and suspension and Kearney said exciting youngster Kodi Nikorima, who went on last year's UK tour as part of a weakened squad, is another who could play his first Anzac test.

All of the pressure will be on world champions Australia, who are desperate to avoid a fourth consecutive defeat to New Zealand. The match also marks the first for Mal Meninga as Kangaroos coach.

- NZ Herald

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