If the Kiwis are to turn their fortunes around in the current Four Nations tournament, they have to find a way of starting matches on the up.

For whatever reason, New Zealand has been slow out of the blocks in this tournament, continuing a run that has hampered then for more than 12 months.

In Coventry the Kiwis conceded tries in the 10th and 14th minutes against the Kangaroos - seeming to momentarily switch off during that time - and it was always going to be an uphill battle from there.

David Kidwell's side deserve credit for staying in the contest, and getting close to an unlikely win in the last five minutes, before eventually going down 14-8, but their habit of starting with the handbrake on is cruelling their hopes.


It was the same last week against England, where only an exceptional defensive effort in the first quarter, combined with some profligate finishing by the Lions, kept the Kiwis in the match.

"We have struggled with our starts," admitted veteran forward Adam Blair. "It's hard when you are coming up against quality teams - the English last week and the Aussies this week. You can't give up starts but credit to our boys we stuck with them for most of the game."

It's becoming an unwanted habit. Probably the last time the Kiwis started a match convincingly was the first test against England last year, when tries to Tohu Harris and Sam Moa gave the Kiwis a 10-0 lead inside the first 20 minutes.

Since then the Kiwis have become accustomed to digging themselves out of holes. In the deciding test of that series they were down at halftime and in the Anzac test this year the Kiwis conceded two first half tries to the Kangaroos.

It was the same scenario three weeks ago in Perth, as the Kangaroos were completely dominant in the first quarter, with two tries in the first 14 minutes.

It's unclear what the solution might be - but it needs to be found soon, especially if the Kiwis get another chance against the Kangaroos in the Four Nations final.

Blair was listed as the starting prop for Sunday's game, before a late switch saw him moved to the bench as Greg Eastwood came into the XIII.

"I don't know [why]," said Blair. "I got told pretty much on the way [to the game]. But it doesn't change my role at all. It's part and parcel of being a team player and that is what we do here. My role is to come off the bench and lift the energy. I try to do that every time I play."

Blair has been one of most consistent performers over the past 12 months, as his career renaissance continues after some fallow years when he left the Melbourne Storm. He was one of the best performers in Huddersfield and Coventry, and the Kiwis noticeably lift when he enters the fray. The 30-year-old must now be a contender for a starting spot, as Kidwell juggles his options.

"It's not my decision," said Blair. "I do everything possible to try and be in the team and it is a hard team to get into with the great players that we have. I'm just happy to be in the team but at the same time we need to be better at our starts. If 'Kiddy' sees me better at starting the game then so be it."

The Kiwis travelled from Coventry to Edinburgh today, where they will be based for three nights ahead of their game against Scotland in Workington on Friday night (Saturday morning NZT).

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