Some of the unusual aspects of the Kiwis' ill-fated World Cup campaign have come under the microscope during the recent New Zealand Rugby League review, placing more pressure on coach David Kidwell.

The review — set to be completed at the end of the month — has been charged with examining the Kiwis' performance at the World Cup, which ended with historic losses to Tonga and Fiji.

Review heads Raelene Castle and Tim Castle have interviewed players, coaching staff, team officials and other high performance personnel for the report, which will also take a wider brief to look at the running of the New Zealand Rugby League.

The Herald on Sunday understands some feedback has not reflected well on Kidwell, who is under immense pressure to keep his job following the poor World Cup performance.


Concerns raised included:

• The decision to spend three nights sleeping on mattresses on the floor of a marae just over a week out from the tournament.

• Having high intensity training sessions on a Thursday, around 48 hours before games in some cases, which was different to standard NRL practice and recent Kiwis traditions.

• Campaign manager Shane Richardson, hand picked by Kidwell, going home to Australia between matches during the tournament.

Kidwell rolled the dice in the build-up to the World Cup. He embraced all kinds of lateral thinking, determined to do things differently, telling the Herald on Sunday: "If you keep doing things the same way, you'll get the same result."

That even led to debate about the value of the likes of Simon Mannering to the squad, although chief selector Tawera Nikau was most vocal in that area in a misguided stance.

Kidwell was also focused on rebuilding the culture and environment within the Kiwis after off-field episodes marred the 2016 Four Nations campaign, before the infamous cocaine incident in Canberra involving former captain Jesse Bromwich and Kevin Proctor after the Anzac test defeat.

That led him to the idea of the extended camp at Turangawaewae Marae at Ngaruawahia, to create bonds and establish team culture, values and vision.


It was a brave but risky experiment. It meant the Kiwis were one of the few competing nations not to have a warm-up match ahead of the event, and also could have compromised preparation.

David Kidwell is under immense pressure. Photo /
David Kidwell is under immense pressure. Photo /

It was far from a high performance environment, with players and staff sleeping on mattresses in one large room. Many were kept awake for long periods by snoring, with some reporting they were exhausted by the end of their stay. There were also some eyebrows raised after the first night, when some support staff decamped to a separate room downstairs.

And not all members of the Kiwis squad, with their different heritage and backgrounds, felt comfortable with the constant focus on Maori culture.

There were also concerns raised by the training schedule. The accepted pattern across professional league is heavy training sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by a rest day on Thursday, before a light session at the captain's run on Friday.

Kidwell, after briefly spending time in the All Blacks environment earlier in the year, decided on a radical change. He observed the All Blacks in heavy contact sessions on the Thursday of a game week, and decided to adapt a similar schedule, reasoning that it could give his team a vital edge.

But the decision ignored years of accepted wisdom, and the fact the codes are different. Professional athletes are also creatures of habit, often performing at their best in a familiar environment.

But the Kiwis were often doing double field sessions in a day, albeit the morning one was usually light, and some players were baffled by the heavy training on Thursdays.

Richardson's presence has also come under the microscope. Picked by Kidwell as a campaign manager, his role wasn't particularly clear.