Shaun Johnson has high hopes for the Rugby League World Cup - adamant that the Kiwis can deliver in terms of style and substance.

The New Zealand team have been written off in some quarters before the tournament, as they have lost a ton of front liners though injury, suspension and the high profile defections to the Tongan team.

It's left a very different looking Kiwis squad, still with plenty of names, but also a lot to prove.

Can they find the forward momentum needed without the likes of Jesse Bromwich and Jason Taumalolo? Who will replace the experience and defensive nous of Kevin Proctor and Tohu Harris? And how much will they miss the organisational skills of Kieran Foran?


"It's all been blown up on the outside," said Johnson, when asked how the Kiwis had 'recovered' from the absence of so many regulars.

"What are we recovering from? We have got 23 other boys who want to be here, and it means just as much to be here. The boys have really come together in the short amount of time [so far]. We have 24 guys that are all here for the same cause. Whatever has happened, happened."

Johnson cut a relaxed figure today, which he admitted might change as the tournament progresses and the spotlight goes on the Kiwis half.

He said the Kiwis, who face Samoa on Saturday in their opening game, have twin goals; not only to win, but also to entertain, to turn people back onto a game that has suffered with the lacklustre recent deeds of the Warriors.

"It's about making the most of this opportunity to showcase rugby league in front of a New Zealand audience and try to inspire kids to take this path instead of the other codes," said Johnson.

"We understand the responsibility that comes with that and we want to play a fun style of footy, a Kiwis style of footy, hopefully we can show you on Saturday what that looks like."

The Warriors became almost robotic over the second half of the last season, and not in a good way. They were predictable on attack, with little invention or finesse, and became too easy to defend against.

The Kiwis will still need structure, but Johnson hopes they can also bring out the flair, similar to their approach in the triumphant 2014 Four Nations campaign.

"[We need] to find the style that suits us as a group," said Johnson. "I guess, results aside, we want to play in a way that gets crowds talking, that gets kids on their feet, makes footy fun to watch and make kids choose this path. We want to play a style that is really appealing to watch."

But aside from entertaining, the Kiwis just need to start winning, as they have only tasted victory in one of their last six test matches. That's why they are seen as underdogs, behind Australia, England and possibly even the highly fancied Tonga.

"We are fine flying under the radar," said Johnson. "We don't want to get caught up in that stuff...we'll let those big nations take the heat."

The Kiwis squad to face Samoa will be named at 3.30pm tomorrow.