Tohu Harris is set to start at five eighth for the Kiwis in the Four Nations final.

Unless there is a last minute change of heart from the New Zealand coaching staff, the Melbourne Storm back rower will fill the crucial position, in the absence of the injured Thomas Leuluai.

Harris always seemed the most logical option, and those thoughts were confirmed at Kiwis training today in Wigan.

The 23-year-old Harris ran at five eighth for the entire session, as the team went through various attacking and defensive drills. Harris was stationed on the left hand side of the ruck - in Leuluai's familiar spot - with Shaun Johnson on the right.


It's a gamble to play someone out of position in such a big game, especially as part of the spine, but Harris is probably the lowest risk option. The 24-year-old has played there before for the Kiwis (in the 2014 Anzac test) and filled in occasionally at the Storm. He's experienced (more than 100 NRL games) and has the right temperament to cope with such an unfamiliar scenario.

Te Maire Martin is a genuine half - and would offer a lot more on attack - but has barely played since his shoulder injury in May. Last week was his first taste of test football, and there is no doubt the Kangaroos would relentlessly target the youngster down one edge.

Other such as Gerard Beale, Jordan Kahu and Lewis Brown could also fill the role (in theory) but would be longshots and in the case of Kahu and Brown would weaken other positions.

Though it is not an ideal situation, there is some upside to Harris' lining up in the halves. He will offer a considerable running threat - to test the likes of Cooper Cronk on defence - and Harris will also provide some extra defensive protection on the edge of the ruck.

But it will also be a test for the Kiwis, who will have to defy conventional league logic. It will heap even more pressure on halfback Shaun Johnson, who the Kangaroos will surely target as the sole playmaker.

It also removes a kicking option, as Leuluai was an effective kicker, especially from close range. Expect Jordan Kahu to take on some more responsibility in that area, as well as hooker Issac Luke.

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