David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

Kidwell won't face sack but assistants may be in the gun

Kiwis coach David Kidwell.
Kiwis coach David Kidwell.

Under-fire Kiwis coach David Kidwell's position is safe, says New Zealand Rugby League boss Alex Hayton, but his assistant coaches could face the axe pending a review of the side's failed Four Nations campaign in Britain.

Since Kidwell took over the reins from former coach Stephen Kearney just over two months ago, the Kiwis have suffered a dramatic slide in form, losing three tests to Australia and drawing with Scotland. A first-up one-point win over England was the only positive result to come out of the six-week Four Nations campaign.

In the wake of yesterday's embarrassing 34-8 loss to the Kangaroos in the tournament final at Anfield, Hayton confirmed Kidwell will remain in charge of the Kiwis until the end of next season.

"David's secured through until the end of the World Cup," Hayton told Radio Sport's D'Arcy Waldegrave.

"We'll sit down and do a debrief when they get back, with David, and out of that take the lessons and move forward towards the World Cup at the end of next year.

"This has been a big learning curve for David in the role and the team as they progress towards the World Cup."

The future of Kidwell's two assistant coaches, former New Zealand international Willie Poching and former Warriors defensive coach Justin Morgan, remain less certain.

The pair were contracted only for the transtasman test against Australia in Perth in October and the Four Nations.

"We're all disappointed with, I guess, the performance [in the final yesterday], but we'll go through a proper process.

"I don't think it's slash and burn straight away," he said.

Hayton's assurances follows calls from former Kiwis captain Richie Barnett for an urgent and wide-ranging review after what he described as the worst performance from a New Zealand side in a Four Nations campaign.

Barnett was critical of the direction the Kiwis had taken during rookie coach Kidwell's tenure and questioned the wisdom of appointing two inexperienced assistant coaches alongside him.

"This is quite staggering, the direction that we're heading in," Barnett said. "Unfortunately, this is probably, I've got to say, the worst performance from a Kiwis side in a Four Nations series.

"We needed some real experience around David Kidwell and I think we just let him down considerably," he said.

"When you look at our support staff in Poching and Morgan from the Warriors, I don't think that would get you excited and they needed a bit more than having those two blokes.

"We just need to really start thinking about what the World Cup will look like next year because we just can't go backwards like this," Barnett said.

- NZ Herald

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