David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

NRL: Warriors coach Stephen Kearney gives Kieran Foran Kiwis go-ahead

Warriors coach Stephen Kearney is happy for Kieran Foran to play for the Kiwis in the upcoming Anzac test against Australia so long as the five-eighth is fully fit.

Foran has rocketed into contention to reclaim the Kiwis No6 jersey against the Kangaroos in Canberra on May 5, after just two NRL games for the Warriors following almost a year away from the game.

The 26-year-old is still managing a hamstring injury first suffered in the warm-up before the Warriors round four loss to St George Illawarra, but has hit top form in back-to-back wins over the Gold Coast and Parramatta.

Kearney, as a former Kiwis coach, is happy for Foran to make a return to test football so long as he comes through Saturday's clash against Canberra and the following three matches against the Storm, Roosters and Panthers unscathed.

"I'm sure he's put himself in the frame," said Kearney. "I want all of the (Warriors) players to experience rep footy, whether it's Kieran, or someone young.

"But the game is pretty challenging and where they sit in a couple weeks time, in terms of whether they're fit and able and ready to play, that's the difference.

"If they're fit and ready to go then I won't be holding anyone back."

With Foran playing first receiver, the Warriors are enjoying the benefits of an all-Kiwis test spine that played such a vital role in the 2014 Four Nations title win and 2015 Anzac test victory in Brisbane.

On current form, Foran is shaping as a certainty for Kiwis coach David Kidwell's side, together with Warriors hooker Issac Luke, halfback Shaun Johnson and fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.

The former Manly and Parramatta playmaker has not played for New Zealand in almost two years, and the Kiwis have not beaten Australia since he last appeared alongside his three new Warriors teammates in the 26-12 Suncorp Stadium win.

In his absence, the Kiwis have struggled for results, losing the 2015 test series against England with Peta Hiku handling the No6 role, before Kodi Nikorima was tried in last year's Anzac test defeat in Newcastle.

In his first test in charge, Kidwell relied on former Warriors five-eighth Thomas Leuluai for last year's end of season encounter with Australia in Perth and throughout the following Four Nations campaign, before injuries forced him to play Tohu Harris out of position when they were thumped 34-8 by the Kangaroos in the tournament final.

"We've struggled without key individuals and our spine has been fragmented," said former Kiwis selector Richie Barnett.

"Now that we've got it at the Warriors, it could only be a massive bonus if that spine stays together at NRL level and then transfers into test football.

"That's the key, keeping those guys in play. Because we're up against an Aussie side that is climbing in leaps and bounds so we must have those players on board."

Kearney is acutely aware of Foran's history with hamstring and lower back problems and the potential impact his absence could have on the Warriors season.

Foran's former club Manly were furious with Kiwis management following the 2015 Anzac test, after he was ruled out of action for several weeks with a torn hamstring.

Sea Eagles coach Geoff Toovey was upset Foran had been allowed to finish the match after he aggravated a pre-existing strain during the first half of the 26-12 win.

"If he's holding any injuries during that period, we're all very aware of what that looks like, and he's had a few issues here and there so there's no guarantees," said Barnett. "But if he is selected it could only be a huge positive to the whole make-up of that side.

"His communication and game management is at another level and his all-round kicking game is great.

"He's one of those special players that see's things before they happen and eyes things up very quickly as we saw last week against the Eels."

- NZ Herald

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