David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

Andrew Johns: Kieran Foran will bring best out of Shaun Johnson

Australian league great Andrew Johns believes the presence of Kieran Foran in the Warriors halves will help Shaun Johnson find the best form of his career.

The eighth league Immortal says Foran - pending a contract clearance from the NRL - will take on the organisational duties for the Warriors and ease the burden on Johnson to allow him to play his natural running game.

Johns has been one of Johnson's biggest supporters since he burst on the NRL scene in 2011 but admits to also being a vocal critic of the New Zealand test halfback.

Rated by many as the greatest halfback to have played the game, Johns has been frustrated by Johnson's inconsistency at both club and international level and last year questioned his future in the number seven jersey during the Kiwis underwhelming Four Nations campaign in England.

The two-time Newcastle Knights premiership winning captain suggested Johnson would be better utilised as a five-eighth but with the arrival of Foran hopes he can fulfil his true potential at halfback.

"The big thing for Shaun is Kieran Foran signing," said Johns.

"He'll take a lot of the responsibility in organising the team which will allow Shaun to play off his instincts and to play what he sees.

"I've always thought Shaun was a natural halfback but his performance in England on the Four Nations tour was poor.

"I just want to see how he and Kieran go together. If that combination clicks then who knows where the Warriors could get to."

Heading into his seventh NRL season, Johnson is approaching the stage in his career where his footballing education is almost complete.

In the coming years, Johns hopes the 26-year-old will be able to put into practice all of the coaching lessons and skills he has learned and find consistency in his play week to week.

"As a half, when you get to 25, 26, 27 it's around that time that you build your legacy as a half," he said.

"Because up until that time you're learning the game.

"I know, for me, it was around that time - it was lightbulb moment, where everything all my coaches taught me and everything I had learnt, it was like 'well, this is what they're talking about' because at that time the game slows down for you.

"So hopefully for Shaun, over the next couple of years he can build that legacy and find that consistency. And I'm backing him to do that.

"I'm his biggest fan but also I'm a critic of his because I know how great he can be."

Johns says he was subjected to less pressure during his playing days at the helm of a one-town team and has sympathy for Johnson, who carries the weight of a nation on his shoulders each time he takes the field.

"(I had that) On a smaller scale. The whole of New Zealand is watching Shaun closely.

"He's under enormous pressure and I feel for him but that's what comes with that kind of talent."

Johns also hopes Foran's contractual situation is resolved sooner rather than later and believes a return to football would be the best thing for him.

He's been impressed with Foran's attitude and focus since arriving in New Zealand and says the former Manly and Parramatta playmaker is in good shape physically and mentally.

"I think he should be playing. The routine of preparing to play each week and being around all of his teammates would be good for him.

"He's got some great mentors over here. Jim Doyle, I know Kieran has great respect for him, and he's back over here amongst some of his family.

"I know he hasn't had a drink of alcohol for three months. He seemed really clear and really stable."

- NZ Herald

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