League: Thomas Leuluai fit to play Australia

By Michael Burgess in Manchester

Thomas Leuluai left the field in the second half of the Four Nations opener. Photo /Getty
Thomas Leuluai left the field in the second half of the Four Nations opener. Photo /Getty

Kiwis five eight Thomas Leuluai will be available for this week's game against the Kangaroos, after passing all necessary tests.

Leuluai left the field in the 52nd minute of the Kiwis 17-16 win over England last Sunday (NZT), after copping a heavy head knock.

At the time Leuluai was disappointed at not being able to return to the action, saying immediately after the game that he was desperate to get back out there.

"I feel fine to be honest," he said in the tunnel at John Smith's stadium in Huddersfield.

"I'm quite angry that the doctor wouldn't let me back on. [But] I actually feel perfect so he's most probably done the best thing for me.

"He was doing his job but, as a player and a competitor, you want to get back out there."

Leuluai was taken off as a precautionary measure, and tests this week haven't revealed any concussion symptoms.

It's a major boost for the New Zealand side. Leuluai is one of the veterans in a relatively inexperienced Kiwis side, one of only four players with more than 30 tests to their name.

The 31-year-old is also a great fillip for Shaun Johnson, one of the best defenders on the team and a player who thrives with the unique challenge of test football, as he has constantly exhibited since his winning debut over the Kangaroos back in 2003.

If Leuluai wasn't unavailable, coach David Kidwell would have had a quandary over the No6 jersey; throw rookie Te Maire Martin in the deep end, rely on Tohu Harris as a makeshift option, or shift Jordan Kahu inside, which would disrupt another position in the backline.

There was also positive news for Jesse Bromwich and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves. Both starting props picked up minor strains against England - which explained their longer than normal spells off the field on Sunday - but have overcome them and will be available for the Kangaroos clash in Coventry.

However, there is some concern over winger Jason Nightingale, who injured his ankle in last Sunday's match, which was rated by some Kiwis as one of the most physical matches they have played in.

Nightingale's fitness will be monitored over the next two days at training, as the St George winger is given every opportunity before the team is named 48 hours before the match.

If Nightingale doesn't recover, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak appeals as the obvious replacement, with Warriors' winger David Fusitua an outside option.

Autex - Proud sponsors of New Zealand rugby league since 1981

- NZ Herald

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