Burgess: Kiwis coach Kidwell has limited options

By Michael Burgess

Kiwis coach David Kidwell doesn't have much room to manoeuvre ahead of the Four Nations tournament. Copyright Photo: Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport.co.nz
Kiwis coach David Kidwell doesn't have much room to manoeuvre ahead of the Four Nations tournament. Copyright Photo: Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport.co.nz

Kiwis coach David Kidwell doesn't have much room to manoeuvre ahead of the Four Nations tournament.

The Kiwis were strangely off the boil on Saturday in Perth, out played for most of the game in their 26-6 defeat to the Kangaroos.

They achieved parity in the second quarter - and probably should have scored more points during that stage of the game - but were otherwise trumped in all areas by the Australians.

The Kangaroos were too powerful, too fast, too strong and too smart.

But Kidwell doesn't have too many other options at his disposal, as it was close to a full strength 17 that took the field at NIB Stadium.

Former captain Simon Mannering, assuming he has recovered from his minor knee surgery, looks a certainty to return to the team.

He has missed the last five tests for the Kiwis (three on last year's tour of England and the two encounters with Australia this year) through health and injury issues, and New Zealand has struggled defensively in his absence.

Questions will continue over Jared Waerea-Hargreaves after his ordinary return to test football last Saturday. Was it just a blip, or is he one of those players that struggles with the step up from the NRL?

He has played some decent games for the Kiwis in the past but his last three or four matches against Australia have been underwhelming, and New Zealand can't afford any passengers at this level.

Otherwise the rest of the pack will keep their positions, though Kidwell may be tempted by the experience and big game temperament of Greg Eastwood.

There isn't room for too many changes in the backline either. Solomone Kata and Jordan Rapana both enjoyed solid debuts, even if they didn't get much ball with time and space.

Jordan Kahu followed up his Anzac test performance will another gritty display at fullback, and is a solid option as the last line of defence.

David Fusitu'a would offer more attacking thrust and pace from the back, but it's doubtful that Kidwell will risk a Kiwis rookie in the crucial Four Nations opener against England.

Experienced centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall had a game to forget with several untimely errors but his pedigree is unquestioned as a test performer and he deserves another chance.

Jason Nightingale isn't a spectacular player but the Kiwis value his experience (29 tests), especially with their young backline.

And Shaun Johnson and Thomas Leuluai will almost certainly be retained in the halves. Johnson is due a good performance for the Kiwis (after being strangely quiet in his last two tests) while Leuluai is the archetypal test footballer, with his 100 per cent commitment to the cause.

For Kidwell it's not so much about changing the personnel as changing the approach.

The Kiwis need to dominate the Kangaroos pack and play as much as possible at the advantage line rather than a series of moves well behind the ruck, which are easy marks for the well - organized Australian defence.

- NZ Herald

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